Earth Rights Abuses in Burma Exposed
Earth Rights School of Burma
Class of 2008
People can create a better world if they have the desire, enthusiasm and
knowledge to do so. Furthermore, unity of thought and unity of action are needed
in the international community to bring about positive changes and sustainable
development around the globe. In a long list of important goals, eradication of
poverty and protection and promotion of human rights and environmental rights
are top priorities.
People power is pivotal and improving the connections among individuals,
organizations and governments is essential. Greater knowledge is important at
every level and every actor in the international community must strive to create a
better world in the future. Of course, this improvement would come from both
local and global actions.
In fact, to my knowledge, the students and EarthRights School (ERS) itself are
trying their best to cooperate and to coordinate with the international community
for the above-mentioned noble tasks. By starting from localized actions, many
ethnic youths from various areas of Burma come, study and have been working
together at ERS. They exchange their experiences and promote knowledge and
expertise not only during their school term but also after they graduate and
through practical work that improves society.
In Burma, according to the international communitys highly-regarded research
and field documents, human rights violations are rampant, poverty is too high,
environmental issues are neglected and good governance is non-existent. This
may be a normal situation under military dictatorships around the world but it is
not a permanent situation and history has proved that if democratic people have
enough power, things will change sooner or later.
The ERS and its students now express their experiences and future vision and
version in this timely book. I believe that it is insightful, fruitful and an excellent
report from Burma to the international community through ERS. I do also hope
that their effort will effectively draw the attention of people inside and outside
Burma to create a better Burma and world.
Members of Parliament Union (Burma)
Chairman, Burma Lawyers Council
The students of the EarthRights School of Burma (ERSB) Class of 2008 would like
to express our heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in our instruction at the
School and those who helped with our field research. We have learned much that
we will be able to use in our future involvement in the struggle for peace, justice,
and freedom in our homeland, Burma.
We would especially like to thank the ERSB staff who taught us how to conduct
our research and were there to guide us on our projects. We would also like to
thank all the guest teachers and lecturers who taught us important lessons about
various aspects of human rights and the environment.
Thank you to Ka Hsaw Wa, the Executive Director of EarthRights International,
and the rest of the ERI staff, both in Thailand and the USA, who supported us in
Our thanks also go out to the various patrons including the Ford Foundation, the
Frankel Family Foundation, Trócaire, and another organization which wishes to
remain anonymous that graciously funded our School and this research project.
Without their assistance we would not have had this experience and the opportu-
nity to improve our skills to better serve our people and improve the situation in
Everyone who helped with these research projects also deserves our thanks. This
is especially so for our personal advisors who guided us throughout the process,
and everyone involved in the final editing of this publication. We are so excited
that our words and ideas will reach an international audience for the first time in
Finally, we are very grateful to our interviewees and all those people who pro-
vided assistance while we were in the field doing the research: for their time,
insights, honesty, and courage.
We hope that all who read this collection of our research and concerns will find
that it inspires them to continue, or to join, the fight to protect earth rights, in
Burma and throughout the world.
The EarthRights School of Burma Class of 2008
Table of Contents
Table of Contents 4
Map of Burma & Research Areas 5
The Environment 8
The Potential Impact of the Salween Dams on the Livelihoods of Villagers on Chaung Zon Island, 9
Mon State by Nai Tiaung Pakao.
Mountains Become Valleys and Valleys Become Mountains in Phakant Township, Kachin State, 24
Burma by John.
The Impact of Gold Mining on the Environment and Local Livelihoods in Shing Bwe Yang 42
Township, Hugawng Valley, Kachin State, Burma by Myu Shadang.
Social and Environmental Impacts of Deforestation in Northern Chin State, Burma by Icon. 58
Forced Labor 80
The SPDC Use of Forced Labor on the Electric Power Lines and the Effects on Villagers in De Maw 81
Soe Township, Karenni State by Khon Nasa.
The Impact of Land Confiscation on the Palaung People in Namkham and Mantong Townships, 98
Northern Shan State, Burma by Mai Naw Jar.
Social Issues 116
If you cut the tree it will be scarred forever: Domestic Violence in Karenni Refugee Camp #1 by 117
The Impact of Drugs on Palaung Children in Namkham Township, Northern Shan State by Lway 136
The price is getting very high: The Reasons Behind the Lack of Education for Children in Northern 161
Shan State, Burma by Wallace.
The Impact of the UN Resettlement Program for Karenni People in Camps 1 and 2 on the Thai- 179
Burma Border by Mar Ry.
Hungry for Education: Villagers Living in Ceasefire Controlled Areas Struggle to Educate Their 196
Children in Boo Tho Township, Papun District by Day Day.
The Negative Impacts of Jade Mining on Women in Hpakant, Kachin State by Cindy. 206
Food Security 218
The Food Security Crisis for People Living in Toungoo District by Dawn Flower. 219
Causes of Food Insecurity in Rathidaung Township, Northern Arakan State by Zaw Zaw. 248
Map of Burma and Research Areas
This report was written by the EarthRights School of Burma (ERSB) Class of 2008
from information gathered in field research conducted as a part of their studies at
the School. The students are eager to expose ongoing human rights abuses and
environmental destruction in Burma under the ruling State Peace and Develop-
ment Council (SPDC).
This collection of reports is the result of the hard work and dedication of fourteen
young men and women from diverse ethnic groups and regions in Burma who
attended EarthRights Internationals year-long leadership school for human rights
and environmental advocacy. While conducting their research the students took
enormous risks, often willingly placing themselves in danger, in order to reveal
the truth about Burma and the perspectives of the people directly affected by
The students were instructed in such subjects as human rights law, environmental
monitoring, advocacy, public speaking and nonviolent social change. During their
coursework, each student chose a topic to focus on and developed a thesis around
it. During the fieldwork portion of their training, students conducted grassroots
investigations, gathered primary source information, and worked directly with
victims of human rights abuses, while witnessing firsthand the environmental
destruction caused by the SPDC and armed groups in Burma and on its borders.
(All interviews were conducted in April and May 2008. Some names of people and
places have been disguised in order to keep them safe).
The information gathered in the field session was translated, analyzed, and com-
bined with background research to produce this impressive volume of reports.
This is only the second such volume produced by ERSB; for most of this years
students this represents the first time they have conducted in-depth research and
writing and seen their work in print. It is a significant step on their way to
becoming committed human rights and environmental activists.
This collection of reports provides important anecdotal evidence of the continuing
abuses and misrule of the SPDC. Its release comes only two months after Cyclone
Nargis devastated the major rice-producing region in Burmas Irrawaddy Delta,
killing an estimated 138,000 people and seriously affecting the lives of 2.4 million
more. The Burmese juntas inept and often cruel management of the crisis sparked
outrage throughout the world.
The students research covers a broad spectrum of topics affecting the peoples of
Burma, but for ease of reading we have divided the volume into four general
Section One, The Environment, looks at how the SPDCs policies have resulted in
environmental degradation and affected the ability of humans to make a living
and provide for their families. Of particular note is how the need to survive has
resulted in unsustainable resource extraction methods, and the juntas willingness
to look the other way so long as it maintains a profit. Section Two, Forced Labor,
examines through two case studies the continuing impact of this human rights
abuse. The studies look at the little-known effects on local communities of the
pylons that carry electricity from dams in Karenni State to power Rangoon and
Mandalay, and the effects of forced labor that result from state-sanctioned land
confiscation. Section Three, Social Issues, covers the social problems that have
resulted from SPDC policies, and the long-term effects of being forced to live in
refugee camps. Domestic violence in the camps, the effects of drug use on children,
difficulties in obtaining education, the impact of mining on women, and the
refugee resettlement program, are all examined. Section Four, Food Security,
presents two case studies: one from a conflict area and one from an area long
under SPDC control, that show how the actions of the SPDC have produced a
situation wherein ordinary people are finding it increasingly difficult to feed their
Each of the students put a lot of effort into improving his or her capabilities as
community leaders and international advocates. With their new skills they will
join the previous graduates of the EarthRights Schools of Burma and of the
Mekong to become a significant force for positive change. We will continue to
support them through our Alumni Program, and look forward to watching them
stand up to the challenge of bringing much-needed peace, justice, and democracy
to their troubled nation.
The Potential Impact of the Salween Dams on the Livelihoods
of Villagers on Chaung Zon Island, Mon State
By Nai Tiaung Pakao
The Salween River originates in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, and flows through
Chinas Yunnan province, and Burmas Shan, Karenni, Karen and Mon States,
before flowing into the Andaman Sea. The Salween River is 2,800 kilometers long,
and is the longest free-flowing river in Southeast Asia. The people living along the
Salween River depend on it for their livelihoods.1
Burmas State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) are reliant on foreign
cooperation for the construction of five large dams and hydropower plants along
the Salween River. Plans for the construction of these dams have been developed
over the last decade; however, the SPDC has not given any information about the
potential impacts of the dams to the people who live along the Salween River and
in the Salween Delta. The regime has signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs)
with the Energy Generation Authority of Thailand (EGAT) and the Chinese state-
owned enterprise Sinohydro Corporation.2 Among some of the communities most
threatened by the Salween Dams are the Mon people in Chaung Zon Township,
This report examines the potential impacts of the Salween River dams on down-
stream communities, especially on the agricultural livelihoods of community
members living in Chaung Zon Township. The agricultural livelihoods of people
on Chaung Zon Island are analyzed. The use of canals to bring water from the
Salween River and to protect their farms from the salt water of the Andaman Sea in
order to develop agriculture is also discussed. Local communities control the
water by building pools for drinking and household use, and depend on these
pools for access to fresh water.
Past lessons drawn from the impacts of manmade changes to the Salween River
are also looked at. For example, the construction of the Thanlwin Bridge in 2000
seriously altered the ecology of the river and the ability of local communities to
In the Balance, Mon Youth Progressive Organization, May 2007.
For more information, go to www.salweenwatch.org
Map of Chaung Zon, Mon State
practice agriculture and fishing. It also negatively affected the ease of river trans-
portation because of resultant shifting sandbanks.
This report puts forward the argument that dam construction on the Salween
River would have even more dramatic effects than the Thanlwin Bridge on the
livelihoods of local people; therefore the plans to construct the dams should be put
on hold until more research on their potential effects can be conducted, and until
local communities are informed and allowed to participate in decision-making
First-hand research was done for this report through interviews with seventeen
people from Chaung Zon, including farmers, fishermen, gardeners, sellers, teach-
ers, youth leaders, and monks. The use of farmland and saltwater fishing was
studied in ten villages. Interviews were conducted in both the Mon and Burmese
Proposed Dam Sites on the Salween River in Burma
Proposed Dam Sites on the Salween River in Burma
EIA: Environmental Impact Assessment.
Damming at Gunpoint, Karen Rivers Watch, 2004, page 11.
Background of Chaung Zon
Chaung Zon is the largest of several islands in the delta of the Salween River.
Although the official name of the island is now Chaung Zon, most people still call
it by its older names of Balue Kyun in Burmese, or Kaw Kamai in Mon. Chaung
Zon is located west of Mottama and Mawlamyine towns, at the mouth of the
Salween River as it flows into the Gulf of Martaban and the Andaman Sea. Chaung
Zon island breaks the flow of water in the Salween River and creates two water-
ways that both flow into the Andaman Sea. Chaung Zon is also divided by a large
mountain which splits the north and south of the island. The mountain, whose
name differs among communities, is 1,800 feet high, and occupies 259.1 square
miles.5 There are 71 villages on the whole of Chaung Zon island, with a total
population of 196,845, mostly Mon, Karen, and Burmese.6 Regardless of any
differences between these communities, they all depend on the Salween River for
Most of the residents of Chaung Zon are farmers, fishermen and gardeners
(horticulturalists). The main crops produced on Chaung Zon are rice, beans,
vegetables, dry fish, fish paste, bananas, coconuts, and other fruit trees. Black-
boards from Chaung Zon are also very famous throughout Burma, and it is the
only place in the whole country where they are created.
Background of the Salween Dams
The Salween River travels 2,800 kilometers as it travels from China down to the
Andaman Sea. The river has different names as it passes through different areas; in
Chinese it is called the Nu Jiang; in Burmese, the Thanlwin; in Mon it is called the
Son Long; and many local tribes in Thailand and Burma call the river Nam Kong.7
The Salween River is one of the worlds richest biodiversity hotspots as it runs
through the Three Parallel Rivers UNESCO World Heritage Site in Yunnan,
Biography of Mu Du Sa Ya Daw.
Chaung Zon Township population in 2002 according to the SPDC.
The Salween Under Threat, Salween Watch, Southeast Asia Rivers Network, and the Center for
Social Development Studies, 2004.
For more information go to http://www.unep wcmc.org/sites/Three Parallel.html
Burmas military regime, and the Thai energy companies EGAT and MDX, as well
as Chinas Sinohydro and Gezhouba companies, have all signed agreements for
the development of five dams on the Salween River. The five dams are the 7,110
megawatt (MW) Tasang Dam in Shan State, the 2400 MW Upper Thanlwin Dam in
Shan State, the 4,540 MW Wei Gyi Dam in Karen State, the 500-900 MW Dagwin
Dam in Karen State, and the 1,200 MW Hat Gyi Dam in Karen State.9
In southern and central Shan State, over 300,000 people have been relocated since
the Tasang dam studies began in 2006.10 The Salween dams will destroy ecologies
and ecosystems, as well as the livelihoods of half a million people in the Mon
communities that live in the downstream area.11
The livelihood of residents of Chaung Zon island is based on agriculture and
fishing. There are two types of agriculture: vegetable cultivation and rice farming.
The farmers cultivate rice and beans in flat fields, while gardeners cultivate
vegetables on the river banks and on smaller islands.
Rice Farming & Beans
After the (April) Water Festival, farmers have to prepare to cultivate their rice.
First, they bring bio-fertilizer and build huts near the fields. Second, they bring
their farm tools and their families to live near the fields and start their farm work.
Usually, they begin planting their rice in May and in November they gather the
harvest. The farming schedule depends on the weather, so if the rains come early
the farmers have to start growing their rice early, and if the rains come late they
have to start growing late.
Once the rice harvest is finished, the farmers start growing beans. The beans can be
harvested after three months. One acre of rice field can produce between 70 and 90
baskets (1,4701,890 kilograms) of rice and five to seven baskets of beans. The rice,
beans, and vegetables from the fields are sold within the village and to other
villages. Some of it is transported to Mawlamyine for sale. Farmers also have to
pay a tax to the government in the form of two baskets of rice for each acre.
Proposed Salween Dams in Burma and China, Salween Watch newsletter, August 2007.
Warning Signs, Shan Sapawa Environmental Organization, 2006.
In the Balance, Mon Youth Progressive Organization, 2007.
The farmers mainly use bullocks to cultivate their fields. Cow manure was used as
bio-fertilizer in the traditional farming method before bullocks were replaced with
tractors. Most of the farmers and gardeners do not own a large amount of land,
with each family having around ten to fifteen acres. If a farmer owns more land
than this, then they cannot use the bullocks for farming, but have to use a tractor
I own about seventeen acres of land. I cant do it by using bullocks because it
takes too much time and I have only two employees. I tried to do it by tractor, but
it was not useful for me at all. The petrol price was rising every day and I had to buy
chemical fertilizer, so I couldnt save money anymore. I had to sell my two pairs of
bullocks to get the money to buy the tractor.12
39 year-old farmer.
When the farmers replaced their bullocks with tractors, they started to use chemi-
cal fertilizers. They thought the tractors would be easy to use and that they could
work quickly. They could rent them very easily and they did not have to take care
of the tractors. Given these factors, the farmers sold their bullocks. If they have
bullocks, they have to spend time to look after them, give them food, etc. Most of
the bio-fertilizer, however, comes from bullock manure, so if they have bullocks
they also have a free supply of bio-fertilizer.
In the past we never used chemical fertilizer because it is expensive and not
useful for a long time. We used bio-fertilizers like animal waste and refuse. But now,
weve started using tractors and most of the people have sold their bullocks and
there are no more bullocks in our village, so we cant get the cow manure. We
started to use chemical fertilizers. It is not only expensive, but also the price of the
petrol for using the tractors is rising day by day. I never had a problem like that
when we used bullocks.13
48 year-old farmer.
I use chemical fertilizers because I dont have any cows and cow manure. It has
affected the soil for a long time. If we use chemical fertilizers we have to use it
every year. The best fertilizer for our fields is the cow manure, animal waste, and
refuse from the field. They do not have a negative affect on the farm land. The bio-
fertilizer I use is cow manure.14
39 year-old farmer.
The authorities made central dikes for the farmers so that they can protect their
crops from salt water from the sea and river. The farmers have to pay the local
authorities for the cost of making the dikes. They have to pay 50,000 kyat per acre
one time when the dikes are made. If a farm is outside of the dike there is no need
to pay for making the dike.
I had to pay authorities 350,000 kyat for my farmland. I own 12 acres of land,
three acres outside of the dike and 2 acres crossed by the dike. I lost two acres of
my farmland but the authorities didnt give me any compensation.15
39 year-old farmer.
If the rainy season finishes early, then salt water from the Andaman Sea can rush
onto the land, so farmers must rush to collect the rice before it is destroyed. In
order to protect their land, the farmers build dikes to keep the salt water away, but
if the dike is not strong enough when the salt water comes up it will be broken. At
that time the salt water goes into the rice fields and will kill the rice in the entire
If our dike is not strong enough it could break and the salt will destroy our rice
field. During that year we couldnt grow beans because the land is salty and noth-
ing can be grown. We have to wait until the next years rainy season. When the
land gets less salty we can grow rice again.16
Vegetables can be cultivated in both the rainy and dry seasons, especially roselle,
long beans, tomatoes, chilies, okra, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, and
cabbages. These vegetable gardens are located on the Salween riverbank and on
small islands. In the rainy season the vegetables cultivated are chilies, eggplants,
cucumbers, roselle, and other vegetables. In the rainy season farmers do not need
to bring water from the river because the rain is enough water for cultivation.
In the dry season water from the Salween is used for the cultivation of vegetables,
mostly chilies, eggplants, cauliflowers, cabbages, long beans, tomatoes, and cori-
ander. Some people keep the water in pools with canals from the Salween River.
This water is collected as the rivers water level rises and automatically flows into
pools through canals at a lower level. When the pool is full, the farmers close off
the canal and can store the water for use in cultivation. The gardeners never grow
only one kind of vegetable in their garden, in order to protect against falling
We never focus on only one kind of seed because we are worried that the price
might rise in the market. If we are growing many kinds of vegetables, one of them
might get a good price.17
The supply of water and the construction of dikes are very important, because if
the saltwater comes before harvesting, the vegetables will be destroyed. If they
cannot protect the land from saltwater, they cannot grow vegetables on that land.18
In the dry season, the saltwater in the river is high because there is less fresh water
from upstream. The farmers are mostly afraid of the dry season tide because it has
a high salinity.
If dams are built on the Salween River, the amount of freshwater will decrease and
the saltwater will come in and take more space and area from the freshwater.
When the tide rises, the amount of saltwater in the river also rises; if the level of
salt water rises it can flood into the fields through the freshwater storage canals. So
the farmer and the gardener then cannot use the water to cultivate rice and
The people living on Chaung Zon island do not know about the Salween dams
being built upstream on the Salween River, nor the effects that these dams can
have on their livelihoods. The government of Burma has not provided information
to the local people who live downstream and in the delta of the Salween River
about the potential impact of dams.
We hear a little about the construction of dams on the Salween from the radio but
we dont know when they will be finished, how they will affect us, or how we could
lose our property and our livelihoods.19
In the Balance, Mon Youth Progressive Organization.
Sapalar and Zoegon are big sea fishing villages located in the southern part of
Chaung Zon. The peoples livelihoods in these villages depend on fishing, and
there are many fishing boats. They catch fish mostly using an England Net20,
which is claimed to be the best kind of net. They produce many kinds of dried fish,
dried prawns and fish paste.
The fishing season in the Andaman Sea begins in October and lasts until April or
May when the rainy season begins. The fishing boats go to sea once a week and
smaller boats go out to bring back all of the fish they catch during the week. When
the fish arrive in the fish-drying area they chose the fish and add salt, then place
the fish in the sun. The dried fish are then sold in their village, and to other villages
in Chaung Zon, and in the town of Mawlamyine.
In one year I have to invest about fifteen million kyat to pay for workers, fishing
nets, and the fishing boat.21
Fishing boat owner.
People from other villages come to sell general groceries that they carry by bicycle
or on their heads. When they go back home they take back the dried fish and fish
Boats can not go fishing because the price of petrol is rising and there are few fish. (Photo by NTP).
A Kind of fishing net, on which the mouth is wide and the end is very narrow.
Fish drying field. (Photo by NTP).
Grocery sellers from other villages come to sell in our village. Whatever they
bring, all the groceries are gone. When they go back they buy dried fish, fish
paste and dried prawns. Now the fishermen do not buy groceries from the sell-
ers anymore. They cant fish a lot. They have to give dried fish to their debtors to
pay back loans.22
A village elder.
Since 2004, the fisherman cannot catch many fish anymore; fish have become fewer
and fewer each year. One cause is over-fishing in the area because of Jam nets,
which catch all sizes of fish from small to large, and even aquatic plants. Some
species of fish will likely become extinct in the area. The government gives
permission to companies to catch fish using Jam nets in the south of Mon State.
A few years ago our village had
many people and a bustling
economy. The fishermen had a
good income. There were a lot of
fishing boats. But now they cant
catch any more fish and the petrol
price is rising day by day. The Jam
nets will make the fish become ex-
Interview 6. Fishing family life. (Photo by NTP).
The people who work in fishing come from other villages in Chaung Zon or from
other townships. In the dry season the fishermen work on fishing and in the rainy
season they work on farming. Jam nets have destroyed the fishing economy and
jobs. Now the farming economy and livelihoods are being threatened by large
dam construction on the Salween River. These Salween Dams potentially effect
communities which do not know anything about the dam plans or the negative
impacts of dam construction. The communities do not think dams can be built on
the Salween River. If the dam construction is finished, the people who live in
Chaung Zon Township will be starved by the salt water that will destroy their
I dont worry about losing the fishing job because I have another job; I can pro-
vide for my family by farming rice and beans. If I lose that I dont know what will
happen to me. I dont think something can destroy our farm land.24
At 3.5 kilometers long, the Thanlwin Bridge between Mawlamyine and Mottama
in Mon State is the longest and largest bridge in Burma. The bridge was built by
the SPDCs Ministry of Transportation between March 2000 and February 2005.
The bridge is 54 feet wide and is supported by 28 pillars, with two road traffic
ways, a railway and two sidewalks.25
After the bridge was built the flow of the water changed, causing downstream
erosion on the
To the east and
north of Chaung
Zon many flat farm-
ing fields have been
lost to erosion be-
cause of new water-
ways made when
the tides rise and fall.
Salween riverbank erosion, after the building of Thanlwin Bridge.(Photo- NTP).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mawlamyaing Bridge; News and Views of Myanmar from the
Ministry of foreign affairs, http://www.mofa.gov.mm/news/feb5 sat05 2.html
Sometimes the erosion is very fast and sometimes very slow. Some farmers in
our village lost their fields due to erosion.26
49 year-old farmer.
The SPDC claims that the Thanlwin Bridge was built to ease transportation and
communication across the Salween River, but the farmers and the ferry drivers
who live downstream are not allowed to cross under it by boat.
The main mode of transportation between Chaung Zon, Mawlamyine, and other
townships is by water. The people from Chaung Zon have to travel by boat and
ship. Nowadays, in the dry season, as less water flows down the river, a new more
permanent sandbank appears in the middle of the river between Mawlamyine and
Chaung Zon each year around April. While sandbanks are common at the mouth
of the Salween, they are frequently smaller and move with the changing water
currents. Since the Thanlwin Bridge was built, the water currents have changed
and this new stationary sandbank has occurred. The ferry transportation that
residents of Chaung Zon depend upon cannot cross the sandbank and has to
follow the new waterways, which takes more time and uses more petrol.
Between Chaung Zon and Mawlamyine the ferry way is blocked by the sand-
bank, so we have to follow another waterway and it takes more time. Before, go-
ing from Mawlamyine to Chaung Zon took one hour, but now it takes an hour and
Ferry driver from Mawlamying to Chaung Zon.
Given that the Thanlwin Bridge has already had such strong effects on the Salweens
flow and the livelihoods of local communities, we can see how disastrous the
effects of building such large dams on the Salween River would be. Dams built
upstream would strongly affect the downstream waterways, change the seasonal
timing of flows, and cause short-term fluctuations in flows and changes of extreme
highs and lows in the river flows.28 With the possibility of these effects, it is
obvious that the people who live on Chaung Zon are extremely threatened by the
Weekly Eleven News Journal.
In the Balance, Mon Youth Progressive Organization, May 2008, page 19.
The World Commission on Dams (WCD) was founded in May 1996 by the World
Bank and the Conservation Union IUCN. They proposed a new framework for
development based on respect for human rights. They also agreed to review the
development of water and energy resources to create guidelines and standards
for the planning, design, monitoring, and decommissioning of dams. WCD has
recommended that before making a decision to build a dam it is important to
assess the real needs: the needs for water, food, and energy should be clearly
understood. Furthermore, WCD recommended reviewing and selecting from a
number of alternatives. They state that all options should be considered, and first
priority should go toward improving the efficiency of existing systems. Those
people who would be affected should be involved in decision-making processes
and should be among the first to benefit from projects. No dams should be
constructed without the acceptance of affected people. Indigenous and tribal
people should be given special consideration so that local participation in the
decision-making process is not happening without them in the project.29
Chang Zons community livelihoods are dependent on their occupations: rice
farming, vegetable gardening, and fishing, inherited from their ancestors. Com-
munity members have the experience to know how to protect the natural environ-
ment. However, when the environment is changed by man, as is the case with
damming on the Salween River, the water levels and flow changes negatively
impact the communitys livelihoods.
The military regime in Burma is cooperating with foreign investors to build five
dams on the Salween River and has not informed the local community about the
plans. The regime and Thai and Chinese investors did not follow international
standards of dam building in these projects. The regime also did not follow its own
law: No person shall carry out any act or channel-shifting with the aim to ruin the
water resources and rivers and creeks.30
In the future, if dams are constructed on the Salween River, rice and vegetable
fields and the fertile land will be damaged by salt water. Salt content will become
higher than it is today in the Salween River and the farmers and villagers will not
be able to use it for agriculture and household uses. The waterway changes may
result in erosion of the riverbank and creation of a new more permanent sandbank
For more information see www.dams.org
SPDC Conservation of Water Resources and Rivers law, Chapter V (8)(a), October 2006.
that makes transportation more difficult. The people who depend on rice farming,
vegetable gardening, and fishing for their incomes will have to find new jobs and
could not support their families as usual. They will lose their connection to their
family because new jobs are far from their families. The number of migrant
workers will increase in neighboring countries like Thailand and Malaysia.
These projects have not benefited the local people because the regime has sold all
of the electricity that is being produced to Burmas neighboring countries, Thai-
land and China. The regime is able to get money from selling the electricity to
support its military, and therefore to kill ethnic people and commit continuing
human right abuses: to keep their grip on power ever longer.
To foreign investors in the Salween Dam projects:
Postpone the projects and make a sincere, appropriate needs assessment of local
downstream communities and environmental and social impact assessments.
Balance the interests of local downstream communities with the value of making
investments in countries where communities have no protection from their own
Follow the international standards of dam building.
Stop investment until Burma gets democracy.
To the international community and NGOs:
Keep supporting moves for peace, equality, and democracy in Burma.
Give voice and agitate for change in Burma so that a real elected government can
be restored and all resources protected under the people and the rule of law.
Pressure the SPDC to respect national and international customary laws.
Urge government agencies and companies to halt the proposed dams.
To the SPDC:
Make deep, careful consideration of the dam projects.
Consider the social and environment impacts for those living downstream.
Stop human rights abuses in ethnic areas.
Recognize local peoples participation in decision-making on any development
To the local community:
Fight for your rights.
Mobilize your support base on the Salween Dams issue.
Mountains Become Valleys & Valleys Become Mountains
in Phakant Township, Kachin State, Burma
In 1994 the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) - now the Kachin Independence
Organization (KIO) - and the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) -
now the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) - negotiated a ceasefire
agreement.31 The Burmese Government opened Kachin State to migrant people
and large mining companies from China. The results of this ceasefire and the
ensuing mining activities has been the violation of human rights and the destruc-
tion of the environment in the Phakant areas, with effects on the entire Kachin
State. This report focuses on a river valley jade mining area in Phakant Township.
Phakant Township in Kachin State, Burma: The research area for this report.
World Rainforest Movement, http://www.wrm.org.uy/bulletin/94/Burma.htm
Kachin State Map & Phakant Jade Mining Area
The valley has changed dramatically in the last ten years. Transportation is more
difficult and infrastructure is under strain. The way of life of the people has been
altered entirely. The wonderful way of living in harmony with the river is gone.
The people of the valley have lost their lands, fields, houses, and livelihoods. They
face an immediate lack of water. This has all been caused directly by the operations
of the jade mining corporations permitted by the SPDC and ceasefire groups.
The SPDC and the ceasefire groups must take responsibility for the human rights
and natural environment of the local people in this valley. The authorities, how-
ever, are not accepting their obligations. When large-scale companies and the
government are involved in the extraction of mineral resources in Kachin State,
Burma, small local communities lose their heritage, livelihoods, and natural re-
Kachin State is situated in the northernmost part of Burma and is one of the most
mountainous states. The valley in this report is in the Phakant Township and it
was a big valley ten years ago. Burma is ruled by a military dictatorship. After the
ceasefire agreement between SLORC and the KIA, the government allowed migra-
tion from China and gave permission to huge Chinese companies to dig large scale
jade mines in Phakant Township. There are an unknown number of companies
from China in the Township. Most work in cooperation with the Burmese govern-
ment and there is no accountability.
The company has been working on the mine site with tractors, bulldozers, heavy
vehicles and heavy machinery. There are about 1,000 machines in each com-
pany and they are digging extremely hard so the environment has been disturbed
and the surface of the earth has been badly damaged.32
The valley is being destroyed by huge companies and is becoming mountainous
because of tailings from the mine sites of the companies. The river has disap-
peared. The people of the valley are facing water problems because of the river
being buried by the companies. The people of the valley have been displaced by
the companies. They have lost their own properties such as lands, houses, fields,
and livelihoods. They have had to endure human rights abuses by the companies
and they are living in hopelessness.
http://bnionline.net/index.php?option com content&task view&id 4280&Itemid 1 News
NMG, 7 May 2007.
This report will proceed as follows: Part 1 describes the background of the valley
and Kachin State. Part 2 gives a background of the SPDC and Ceasefire Groups
companies. Part 3 highlights the environmental impacts of mining, and Part 4
details the resulting economic and social problems. These are just lists; in reality if
the Burmese government does not start to care for the environment and the people
in this area, the whole village will be gone and the people will face an even worse
crisis than the current situation.
This report is based on field research that took place in Seng Tawng (Seik Mu)
Town, Myitkyina Town, and two villages. Seventeen people were interviewed for
this report. They include old people, Yemasay workers, a person whose boss is
from the Phakant Township, and a person from Myitkyina who worked for many
years in these jade mining areas. Some information is from secondary research,
and some knowledge from my own experience is included and forms a basis of
comparison to the current situation.
Background of Kachin State & Villages
Kachin State is the northernmost State of Burma and is a mountainous region. It is
bordered by China to the north and east; Shan State to the south; and Sagaing
Division and India to the west. The area of Kachin State is 34,379 square miles; the
capital is Myitkyina. The population is estimated at 1-1.5 million, the majority of
people being Kachin, though the state is also home to other ethnic groups such as
the Burman and Shan. Official statistics state that the distribution by religion is
57.8% Buddhist and 36.4% Christian.33
Kachin State contains one of the mainland Southeast Asias last remaining large
areas of intact natural forests, and is one of the eight hottest hotspots of biodiversity in
the World.34 The state is rich in natural resources including timber, minerals, and
gems and the peoples livelihoods depend on the land, the forest, and the rivers.
Traditionally Kachin society was based on shifting hill agriculture, but now their
products, including rice, sugarcane, corn, and beans, are limited by the govern-
ment and the main products have become jade, gold, timber, and other minerals
found in Kachin State.
http://www.wrm.org.uy/bulletin/94/Burma.htm (World Rainforest Movement).
In this field research area, there was a valley along the river before, but it is not
there now. There are hundreds of households and more than five hundred people.
There are two villages, one at the top of the valley and one further down, about 1.5
I have previously been to the jade mining areas in Phakant Township in 1994 with
my eldest brother. I worked in the jade mines of Phakant Township myself from
1997 to 1999. At that time, there were a small number of companies and these were
small or government-run. Everybody had a chance to mine anywhere they wanted
if they could organize and afford it. The people were Kachin or from some ethnic
groups such as Shan or Burman. The people did not have the expertise or technol-
ogy for large-scale open pit mining. They used traditional instruments and ex-
tracted jade just from the upper layer of the mountains. Even though it was a hard
life, and not popular with the villagers, it did not destroy the environment like the
current methods do.
Background of Government, Ceasefire Groups, & their
Burma is ruled by a Military regime, the SPDC. Kachin State has seen an increase
in control by the SPDC military since the KIA (now KIO) signed a ceasefire
agreement with them in their incarnation as the SLORC in 1994.35 Before the
ceasefire, Phakant Township was under the authority of the armed group KIA/
KIO. After the ceasefire, the SPDC
had more control over jade min-
ing areas than the KIO.
The Burmese Government
opened up the area to huge com-
panies from China and gave per-
mission to them to excavate open
pit mines with sophisticated ma-
chines. After 1994 the Chinese
companies were prevalent in
Phakant jade mining areas. The
Extreme jade extraction by Aung Shwe Kabar company SPDC has sought to intensify its
(Photo by John) exploitation of Kachin States vast
mineral reserves including jade, gold, platinum, and coal.36 Phakant is the largest
jade mining area in the country, is dotted with hundreds of companies. All these
companies are extraction jade with the mine employing between 50 to 150 workers
It is estimated that for a company it takes about four to six months to dig an area
the size of the Mandalay Hill.38 The Mandalay Hill is 240 meters (790 feet) high.39
Phakant has been occupied by the Teza Htoo Company in the name of Akjou-tu, or
equal interest (with the SPDC) since 2006.40 Teza Htoo Company is the governments
company and is overrunning jade mining around Phakant. Other companies work
in Akjou-tu with the government and sometimes with the ceasefire groups compa-
nies. If a company does not join with the government, it will face business prob-
lems, including site closure.
Environmental Damage from Open Pit Jade Mining
Mountains Become Valleys &
Valleys Become Mountains
My focus area was a valley about ten
years ago. The valley is now a moun-
tain. The current mountains are actually
not real; they are comprised of the tail-
ings from the local jade mines. The val-
ley is about 2 kilometers long and there
are more than ten huge companies oper-
ating there right now. At first, compa-
nies mined along both sides of the moun-
tains in the valley. The companies tail-
ings from the mine site are carried by
truck and thrown into the valley from
the top of the mountains.
Mountains become valleys because of the SPDC's
perversion and tycoons' greed. (Photo by John).
http://bnionline.net/index.php?option com content&task view&id 4280&Itemid 1
http://bnionline.net/index.php?option com content&task view&id 4280&Itemid 1
http://www.kachinnews.com/index.php?option com content&view article&id 86:junta
threatens jade companies over referendum &catid 1:latest news&Itemid 50
The valley has become filled with tailings; heaps appear that become as big as
mountains. In addition, the mining causes huge dents to occur in the mountains
and then the mountains become valleys. The companies have inverted the valleys
and mountains to get jade. There are amazingly destructive changes happening to
the environment due to large-scale open pit jade mining by the Burmese govern-
ment. The SPDC is responsible for granting permission to huge companies to mine
and therefore they are responsible for resulting damage.
Jade Mining Makes Rivers Disappear
The river flowed along the valley and the river flow was very fast though not very
deep. As mentioned above, more than ten big companies were throwing their
tailings into the valley every day and night creating a large heap of tailings along
the river, so there was no way for the river to flow. The river flow was changing to
flow to the dent that was left after areas were mined. In addition, the companies
were excavating areas more and more widely and they mined entire mountains on
both sides of the valley.
Given these practices, the river was absolutely by filled up with tailings from the
open pit jade mining of huge com-
panies and disappeared. The
governments caution sign board for
villagers says, Dont throw trash into
the nearby river, if you do so you
must pay a 5000 kyat fine. Their
caution sounds nice, though in real-
ity they are perpetrating incredible
damage to the environment. The
government just wants to look like
they care; however, their actions re-
veal their hypocrisy and true lack of
(Photo by John). concern for the environment.
Two rivers have been blocked by sophisticated machines used by the mining
companies. In rainy season the rivers flood every year; many houses are lost and
lots of local people face disaster. These rivers are the life of the villagers. They are
being vanished by company activities and the villagers face scarcity of water.
Mining sites in Kachin State run by hundreds of companies that all cooperate in
Akjou-tu (equal interest) with the SPDC have caused incredible destruction to the
environment in Phakant Township and beyond.
Economic & Social Problems Caused by Jade Mining
The village is made smaller year by year by the companies.41
Ten years ago, the valley contained a long and large village. There were three
parts; the bottom, middle and upper villages, and together they were more than
one kilometer long. However, nowadays all people from the valley have to live in
a small area that is only about 200 meters long. The people of the villages had to
organize themselves into this small area by order of the companies. The compa-
nies purpose is to get more area to mine.
Despite the right to own property under international human rights law, such as
Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 17 of
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), there is no actual
right to own property in this valley in Burma.
The village is reduced to just 200 meters long. (Photo by John).
Displaced families get little or no compensation from the companies. If the com-
pany co-operates with the Burmese government the displaced families do not get
any compensation from the company. If the company does not co-operate with the
government, then the company gives a little compensation to the displaced fami-
lies. The Burmese government assigns a person to deal with compensation be-
tween the companies and villagers.
I heard that the company already gave compensation to the authority person for
my land and house, but I did not get any compensation, the authority person told
me that the company did not give any compensation.42
The villagers are suffering a crisis because of the Burmese government. Some
families were forced to move near the cemetery; some others were forced to go to
the dent area in the mountain that was caused by jade mining. The villagers do not
want to live near the cemetery nor do they want to stay in the dent area. They do
not have a chance to complain to the companies, including to any authorities or to
any government offices.
If we want to move to a reasonably good place, we have to pay money to the
company: at least 100,000 kyat.43
Though the people have lost their property, they have not received any compensa-
tion. In addition, they have to move from their land to other, messy places, and
they have to pay the companies to stay there. The people from this valley are in an
increasingly worse situation because of SPDC control.
The small village only exists at all now because hundreds of companies are com-
peting for the land, so the government has difficulty in deciding which company
should get permits.44
As mentioned above, the river is gone. Villagers are facing a lot of problems,
especially in trying to get water to survive. When the river existed, the villagers
did not face any water problems and it was an adequate situation. Now they have
difficulty trying to get water.
The two villages are about 1.5 ki-
lometers apart. The top village
faces scarcity of water; however,
there are still some springs near
the village, so it is not in as pre-
carious a situation as the lower
village. Villagers have to connect
small pipes to these springs to get
water. There are many problems;
the pipes are only finger-width
so they are often blocked by waste
coming from the springs. Big
In summer, water is worth more than Jade. (Photo by John).
pipes cannot be used because the
springs are not big enough; with big pipes the water does not flow. Villagers are
facing not having enough water to meet their needs. Sometimes they cannot get
enough water to cook food for their families. In the dry season the water is even
scarcer and there is no naturally-occurring water to drink for survival.
If villagers want to dig a well in their residence, they have to spend lots of money
because the water only exists under the hardest layer of the ground. The villagers
do not have money to dig the well and if they have adequate money to get the well,
they are not sure how long they can stay in their current places. It is very difficult
to just get a small amount of water and they are facing an even worse situation
during the summer.
At that time the water is worth more than jade and villagers, including children,
are facing the problem of thirst.45
Villagers must buy bottled water. On other hand, there are no problems for the
companies: they dig large wells in their resident compounds.
Some companies allow the villagers to take water from their well, but some do
not allow it.46
In summer, even though their wells are also dry, they can bring water in big tanks
from the Town.47
Interview 4 and 5.
Interview 4 and 5.
Interview 4 and 5.
Lack of Education for Village Children
Article 26 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Article 13 of the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights mention free
education. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 28, also mentions
free education, and the government of Burma has signed the latter. But despite
there being hundreds
of children in this area,
there is no free educa-
tion. There are so many
children that, although
they do not get free
education, they also do
not have enough
places to play. There is
a nursery school and a
primary school. The
nursery school is a sub-
sidiary of the Christian
Church and the pri-
mary school is self-
supporting. There is no
The valley's children are playing on the trash. (Photo by John) middle school.
The Burmese government and mining companies do not care about education for
the children. Those who have finished primary school have to go to the middle
school in another village at the bottom of the valley, about three miles away. All
middle school students go to the school on foot every weekday. It is very hard for
the children but they do not have a chance to get education any other way. In
addition, their parents have to worry about their childrens school travel and they
have to spend lots of money for their childrens education. Most of the children do
not get a chance to go to the middle school even if they have finished primary
Providing education is most difficult for parents whose children have finished
middle school. These parents want to send their children to the high school but
they have to spend lots of money and they do not have adequate money for their
childrens education. There is only one high school in the Phakant Town area.
Some parents had to sell their own land to the companies in support of their
My daughter is very clever, she got an academic prize every year when she
was in primary and middle school, so I really want to send her to high school,
but I do not have enough money for her, so I am very upset.48
Loss of Livelihoods
For the last ten years the valleys villagers have had lands, houses, fields, and
livelihoods that have depended on the river. The people dug jade by themselves
with the traditional tools, such as the crowbar, iron post, iron hook, and spade.
When they got some jade they could sell it at the jade market in Phakant Town. At
that time their life was peaceful and they did not have any problems with water,
livelihood, or education for the children. Their activities did not overly affect the
environment and the environment was still sound. This was something that I
witnessed, because I stayed for about three years in the valley at that time.
Now the villagers from the valley are having to work very hard and are becoming
poorer day by day. They do not have properties or fields or their own jobs.
Nobody has the chance to dig jade themselves. The Government and the compa-
nies control all of the valley and its land and resources. Even though government
and company control is causing much strain for the villagers, they do not have a
chance to show their real feelings. The villagers have to swallow their expressions
even with how much they are feeling.
Nowadays, one of the only livelihoods for the villagers is finding jade among the
tailings. They name the worker that is looking for jade among the tailings a
Yemasay. Tailings come from jade extraction from the companies large-scale
open pit mines. This job does not come with guarantees; a worker can not be sure
to get jade during a day, a week, a month, or even a year.
The job is very dangerous and most Yemasay workers find jade with a torch light at
night between 10pm and 4am. They do this because the companies throw the
tailings from the mountains to the valley and work more at night than in the day
time. The Yemasay workers have to climb near the top of the tailings and they have
to find jade quickly among the tailings when the trucks are throwing their tailings
to the bottom.
The life of the Yemasay worker is hard. They are like
blind people. They do not know when they will see and
get jade, but they have to try to find it every day and
every night for their survival, for their children and for
their parents. Even when they find jade sometimes, it is
if not good quality, the jade is not valuable. There are
many kinds of jade, some valuable and some worthless.
Sometimes villagers labor to find jade but it is worthless
to them, a waste of time and energy. Because the tailings
come from the waste of the mines, the company workers
have already found jade specifically in the tailings from
'Yemasay'. (Photo by John).
it when they extracted it. It is not easy to get precious
jade for the Yemasay workers. The workers continue to do this work, however,
because there is no other job available to them.
There are two kinds of Yemasay workers: those who signed with the company and
those who did not. Those who sign make an agreement with the company that if
the Yemasay workers get some jade they have to show it to the company, and the
company will decide the worth of this jade and pay money to the worker. There is
a person who has authority from the company to make assessments. If the workers
get jade they have to show it to that authority person. This person makes an
agreement between the companies and workers on payments.
The companies do not pay what the jade is actually worth. The workers know
about that but are not in a position to complain. In addition, there are two levels of
extortion: the first that the company does not give good value for the jade, and
secondly that the authority person did not hand money over to us at all.49
Most of the workers do not sign with the companies but some do. They do this
because if they get jade and then show it to the company, they will get money
quickly even though the money is not much. The workers need money for their
survival, for their childrens education, and for their elderly parents. Some of the
Yemasay workers still have to work with the companies for their essential things
such as food, even though the companies are exploiting them as much as they can.
If the workers not get any jade, the companies do not support anything. In addi-
tion if the workers get injuries from accidents, they do not care anything.50
Interview 6 and 7.
Interviews 6 to 10, Yemasay workers.
Yemasay workers find jade in the tailings of mountains in dangerous condition. (Photo by John).
The company also told us when we signed with them that we should not inform
the company if the worker has an accident from finding jade without dying.51
There are many Yemasay workers who did not sign with the companies. They also
have to work hard and if they get some jade, they have to carry it secretly. Even
though the companies do not prevent people from finding jade, when they get
some jade it is not safe, they have to avoid the company people.
If the company people hear that the workers had found jade of good quality, the
company would find them and take it from the worker for nothing. So we have to
do secretly even this job is not sure job for us.52
The workers are facing livelihood problems. They have to find jade by themselves
and have to find it among the tailings. Tailings are just waste from mining, so the
people should own the jade when they get it from tailings. The people do not have
such opportunities and are becoming poorer.
Interviews 3, 9 and 14, Yemasay workers.
Interviews 11 and 12, Yemasay workers.
If a Yemasay worker finds jade and it is heavy, another Yemasay worker can help
him to move the jade. They have a rule that the worker who gets there first must
give half of its value among the helpers. So they call workers Jokkee, except the
worker who first found the jade.
One of my friends got jade from tailings. It was heavy, more than 1000 kilos, so
about one hundred Yemasay workers including me were Jokkee for him and we
signed on a paper so each worker was easy to find and pay after the jade had
sold. We carried it with difficulty because of the weight and we had to carry it
silently until we reached the residence of the first worker, a distance of about 500
meters from the tailings. We reached it at midnight. We proceeded secretly but, I
do not know how, somehow the company knew about us. The companys people
found us and took that jade with intimidation from the worker who found it first. Of
course the company paid nothing for what they took. I also got sick until now by
carrying that jade, but I did not get anything. It happened about two months ago.53
The companies operate without any care for villagers. They do not need to worry
about anything because they are operating with the powerful SPDC behind them
and the SPDC shares the interest in and benefit of the large-scale open pit jade
The people of the valley lived on their ancestral land and depended on the
environment. The SPDC authorities are destroying the earth and extracting the
natural resources from the jade mine sites for their own benefit and luxury. They
do not remedy environmental problems and they do not heal the earth after the
destruction they cause. The impacts on the environment have been extremely
negative and there is an incredible mess between the local people and the earth.
People are in a worse crisis because the environment has been destroyed. The
SPDC acts how they want and they do not care about the effects of the destroyed
earth on the local communities. They should take responsibility for the people and
Interview 13, Yemasay worker.
The SPDC has co-operated mostly with companies from China. Today companies
that do not cooperate with the SPDC are disappearing. The governments mottos
have a nice, warm sound, such as the Tatmadaw (military) is the parent of the
public and, towards new development in the country using natural resources.
In reality, they are not honoring their mottos.
The Burmese government extracts and deals out jade to other countries from
Kachin State and they are unaccountable for both the amount of jade and the
methods by which they get it. But we must demand to know how many people in
local communities are benefiting and how much development has there been in
the country? The answer is that no local people are benefiting, and the country is
increasingly becoming a poorer country; Burma is counted as one of the poorest
countries in the world.
Where is the gain from unknown quantities of jade and who gets this benefit? The
only outcomes that local communities face are various kinds of problems: famine,
thirst, and homelessness brought about by the greed of tycoons and the SPDC.
Meanwhile, there are so many Chinese people getting rich from jade from Phakant.
The jade comes from Kachin State but there is no jade market in the whole of
Burma. A rich person from Phakant Town said:
The markets dealing in jade are in China: Hong Kong, Beijing, Taiwan, Kunming.54
While local Kachin property owners become poorer, migrant Chinese business-
men are becoming richer. This is a result of decisions by and between the SPDC
and ceasefire groups. Property owners who lived in jade mining areas have lost
their heritage, livelihoods, lands, houses, water, and education. They have to live
densely in small areas and suffer greatly.
The Burmese government ignores all problems they have caused, and extort
mining site communities again and again until all is hopeless for them. Children
from the mining sites are facing a lack of education and find life more and more
difficult because of their lack of knowledge. People from the mining sites are in a
growing crisis because they do not have jobs to earn money for survival. They are
facing a scarcity of water caused by the destruction of the environment by the
companies jade mining with sophisticated technology. There are many places
around the Phakant Township like that, not only in my focus area.
Interviews 16 and 17.
The valley villages will soon be gone because even if the companies and SPDC do
not take it away first, residents will have to move anyway due to water problems.
Villagers have reached a state of hopelessness for their futures, caused by the
SPDCs perverse actions and inhumanity towards its own people.
To the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC):
Stop the mining enterprises.
Evict the huge companies that came from China.
To respect and to use human rights in practice.
To respect International Environmental Law.
To take action with Environment Impact Assessments (EIA).
To remake suitable livelihoods for the mining sites people.
To take responsibility for the peoples poverty.
To provide free education.
To behave in accordance with the SPDCs own mottos.
To inform the public about decisions between the SPDC and ceasefire groups on
matters of public interest.
To give freedom of expression to the public, listening to and respecting their
To huge companies that cooperate with the SPDC:
Stop the mining projects.
Do not mine with sophisticated, high-impact machines.
Do not exploit the people who live in mining sites.
To take action with Environment Impact Assessments (EIA).
To heal the earth and to remedy the environment in mining sites.
To do resettlement programs for the people who are displaced from their own
To inform and allow participation of mining site communities in EIAs.
To ceasefire organizations:
To preserve their own land and natural resources.
To take responsibility for the ethnic peoples development.
To inform your nation about what is going on in the organization.
To give freedom of expression to your nation, listening to and respecting its
To create progressive education for children and youth.
To make unity among all ceasefire groups without conflict.
To lead us towards developing new life with your truthful decisions.
To lead us in equality and have fairness towards everyone.
To NGOs, including environmental and human rights organizations:
To inform the international community about the problems.
To raise awareness in local communities about environmental issues and human
To the international community:
To know about the situation of jade mining in Kachin State.
To search for ways in which local communities can find solutions.
To local communities from mining sites:
To have unity with each other as a whole.
To focus on the childrens education.
To preserve natural resources and the environment as much as you can.
To search for a better way for the next generation.
The Impact of Gold Mining on the Environment
& Local Livelihoods in Shing Bwe Yang Township,
Hugawng Valley, Kachin State, Burma
By Myu Shadang
Map of Hugawng Valley,
The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) recognize that Hugawng valley
is a resource-rich area in Kachin State, in the northern part of Burma. That is why
they give permission to mining companies to extract the resources. Gold mining,
however, is violating local livelihoods and the environment. The SPDC is exchang-
ing money for the local environment, for nature and life in the Hugawng Valley
forest in Kachin State. This money is used to buy military weapons.
Burma has signed international environmental agreements and conventions such
as the UN framework convention on climate change. That UN framework conven-
tion is to reduce greenhouse gases in an international and legally binding agree-
ment.55 Nevertheless, the SPDC is ignoring international conventions and not
implementing them. It explains that this is good as it will cause economic growth.
In fact, growth is paid for with local peoples blood.
In Kachin State, many places have similar situations. This report will focus on the
Tong Mali and Shing Bwe Yang gold mining sites in the Hugawng Valley in
northern Burma. This report will expose environmental problems and land confis-
cation at the sites and highlight local livelihood problems in Shing Bwe Yang
Township. It puts forward the argument that the gold mining sites are ruining not
only the local environment but also local livelihoods.
The report proceeds as follows: Part 1 describes
the background of the mining sites in Hugawng
Valley. Part 2 examines the environmental im-
pacts of the Tong Mali mining site. Mining
here causes deforestation, the loss of pastures
for animals, and water pollution. Part 3 of the
report exposes the confiscation of property in
Shing Bwe Yang Township by military authori-
ties and private companies. Land confiscation
is driving many kinds of social problems in-
cluding opium and heroin use. Gold mining is
causing local livelihood problems and is creat-
ing internally displaced people. Finally, the
report concludes with recommendations.
Gold mining area
This report aims to inform local and international communities about the harmful
impacts of gold mining. Local residents, nurses, headmen, mining workers, mer-
chants, and company workers were interviewed for this report. Applicable books
and the Internet were also used to inform this report.
A Background of the Hugawng Valley
The Hugawng Valley is in western Kachin State and Sagaing Division. It shares a
border with India. It is surrounded by the Naga Mountains which form the border
of Kachin State.
Since 1962 a military regime has controlled the whole of Burma. But Hugawng
Valleys thick forest was largely untouched by Burmas military regime. In 1994,
Burmas military regime and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) signed
a ceasefire. Local residents had high hopes that peace would foster economic
development and improved living conditions. The remote and environmentally
rich Hugawng Valley in Burmas northern Kachin State has been internationally
recognized as one of the worlds hotspots of biodiversity. The US-based World
Tiger Conservation organization and Burmas military junta have cooperated to
create a tiger reserve in Hugawng Valley.56
The Hugawng Valley is
rich in natural resources
such as gold, platinum,
rubies, and timber. The
valley is famous for its
rare species. It has one fa-
mous road called the
Lido Highway. It crosses
from India to China. The
highway was used by al-
lied forces in World War
II. The SPDC established
a mining area after the
Conservation sign beside the Lido hightway. (Photo by Myu Shadang). ceasefire.
We can see in Hugawng Valley two parts
divided by the Lido road, to each side of
the road. The left part is a mining area and
the right part is a conservation area. That is
why on the left side you will see a lot of gold
mining. There are many villages along the
Sea Sun Star office at Tong Mali mine.
Most villagers have been farming, hunting (Photo by Myu Shadang).
and fishing since the time of their ancestors
in the Hugawng Valley. But for the past ten years there has been a lot of digging
and mining though the Danai River and the left side of the Lido Highway. Two
famous mining sites there are the Tong Mali mining site and the Shing Bwe Yang
mining site. Both are very huge pit mines.
Sea Sun Star Company holds permission to sell land for mining. This company is
cooperating with the SPDC and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO)
ceasefire group. The result is that the companies can mine pretty much wherever
they want. Most mining workers are Shan, Burmese, Arakanese, and Chinese; and
there are a few Kachin and Tang Shang Naga people as well.
The Sea Sun Star Company pays taxation to both authorities. The Tong Mali
mining site is in the KIO controlled area. All mine owners have to pay between
16.392 grams and 32.784 grams of gold per month. The Sea Sun Star Company
pays taxation to both the Burmese mili-
tary regime and the Kachin Indepen-
dence Organization (KIO).
Owners must pay 32.784 grams of gold
to the Sea Sun Star Company per month
per machine. Understream miners must
pay 9.52 grams per month. Mining own-
ers face crises, as taxation is high and
living costs are also high; and they are
Tax gold from Tong Mali miner to Sea Sun Star.
(Photo by Myu Shadang). extorted by authorities.58
Environmental Problems at Tong Mali Mining Site
Tong Mali mining area was a thick forested area, containing many kinds of
species. Yet the authorities allowed the digging of mines there. Therefore, many
people and companies came.
That mining causes deforestation and destroys land.59 Local villager
A lot of mining companies and
private mine owners have been
digging with big machines for
many years. The mining systems
are open pit mines. When they dig
mines they use a lot of land areas
and cause great erosion in one day.
We dig around 20 ft per day with
one machine. Some mining uses
Miners use big machine to dig for gold.
(Photo by Myu Shadang). Miner
The valley area used to be a forest with great biodiversity and many types of trees.
People and nature were intimately connected with each other and people depend
on nature directly and indirectly for wood, water and air. Forests sustain the
atmosphere; forests provide a climate in which we can live. The ozone layer and
the atmosphere protect us from damaging ultraviolet radiation; trees absorb some
the air pollutants.61
However, when mines are dug many species of tree and animal are killed. Extinc-
tion contributes to the greenhouse effect and global warming.62 Global warming is
not only the responsibility of one state; the Burmese military junta has a responsi-
bility to the world.
Environmental Science: Earth as a Living Planet, 4th Edition (2005) Daniel B. Botkin and Edward
A. Keller, Wiley, page 9.
Burma has an environmental policy and
environmental domestic law but the SPDC
has not implemented it and has ignored it
upon the arrival of environmental problems.
Moreover, the SPDC is destroying public
properties such as rivers, streams, and
ponds, violating its own law. Domestic law
says that, If someone injures public prop-
erty such as rivers, streams and ponds, they Deforestation in the area.
violate laws.63 (Photo by Myu Shadang).
The SPDC and some Chinese companies are also planning on logging in the
Hugawng Valley; this will encourage further deforestation. First, they will repair
the Lido road to pass easily through the Hugawng Valley to China.
Last month some rich Chinese came and looked in that forest with a map and
some tools. And before that, some KIO officers and Ministry of Forestry officers
came in here with a boat and looked around ... Some witnesses said they saw
Chinese workers waiting in Danai city to work on the Lido road.64
Loss of Pasture & Endangered Species
Wild animals depend on the forest. Some endan-
gered species were living in the area, such as rhi-
nos, elephants, and deer. Many other kinds of natu-
ral life depended on the forest. Deforestation can
cause extinction, as there is no shelter for animals.
Nevertheless local hunters are hunting more to
supplement their incomes. There are more con-
sumers and demand is growing fast. Before mining
began, local hunters were hunting with cultural
discipline. Their culture has banned hunting dur-
ing some months since the time of their ancestors.
Today the hunters are not following their culture;
they are hunting more and more as the market
Fishing by dynamite blasting.
(Photo by Myu Shadang). demands it and species are disappearing.
Union of Myanmar Ya zatat kyi,Environmental Law(Publication April 1963),Chapter14,Article 277.
Before mining sites were developed in the Hugawng Valley, fishermen fished by
their cultural traditions. However, people have become very greedy. They have
begun fishing in less sustainable ways, and fish are becoming extinct. The Jade
Land Company worked with the Department of Fisheries to establish a fish
conservation monitoring group. Now they restrict fishing times and require per-
missions to be obtained.
Actually, the Department of Fisheries should support its expenses but everything
is supported by the company. There is a lot of mining in the whole Danai River. That
is why fish are becoming reduced, due to contaminated water. Selfish people
want money, that is why they try to get many fish with ways including dynamite
blasts, using chemicals and over-fishing and so on.65
Representative of monitoring group.
In 2007 the monitoring group banned fishing from March to July. The group uses
enforcement to punish people who violate the ban, so the situation is improving.
Locals now have better chances to find fish in there.66
The World Tiger Conservation group is working with authorities, who have
recognized a tiger reserve. The public can see the sign boards and posters for the
reserve everywhere in Hugawng Valley, but no one is sure exactly what is happen-
ing or what the result has been. The public cannot see any impact. For these
reasons some of the species are becoming endangered.
There are hundreds of mines, each causing erosion
into the streams. Mining companies routinely throw
their tailings into the streams. They also use a lot of
mercury and some cyanide acid to separate the gold
and platinum, which is also then thrown into the
rivers. This is why the stream is contaminated.
Miners use mercury to pan gold.
A lot of mining is causing contamination. Therefore, (Photo by Myu Shadang).
many kinds of fishes can be reduced or extinct.67
Representative of monitoring group.
Mining workers, merchants, and all Tong Mali mining area dwellers, use the Tong
Mali stream to wash and to swim. They live and drink water by the side of
contaminated streams. For this reason, many people are becoming ill and are
coming down with skin diseases.
Almost all mining workers who
use that contaminated water
have Herpes Simplex Type 1 and
Eczema Herpeticum diseases.
And some also get malaria fre-
A local nurse.
A lot of old mining sites are caus-
ing health problems in the Tong
Mali mining site. Miners dug
many small ponds which became
contaminated by mosquitoes,
Cook living with Herpes Simplex Type 1.
(Phot by Myu Shadang). and parasites grow in the old
mining ponds. Workers and mer-
chants are coming down with malaria and other diseases. Some mine owners help
their workers get natural medicines. However, if the owners dont help the work-
ers, the costs are very expensive. Therefore, mining workers face depression when
they get diseases. Nobody cares for patients in the mining sites. The authorities
collect taxes from the companies and everyone ignores their responsibilities to the
Land Confiscation in Shing Bwe Yang Township
Shing Bwe Yang Township is part of the Hugawng Valley. It is very close to India.
It has Lisu people (a tribe of the Kachin nation) and Naga people (a tribe of the
Chin nation). The Tang Shang Naga people have their own culture and own
language. Most local people are Christian. Their livelihoods are farming, hunting
and fishing, in the tradition of their ancestors. The people depend on their neigh-
borhood forests and streams. They use herbal medicine from their forests.
Local people make houses with forest materials. (Photo by Myu Shadang).
Dwellings are usually two stories built of wood and bamboo. Houses are oval
in form; the first floor serves as storage and stables while the second is utilized
for living quarters.69
Before mines came, people had simple jobs - farming, hunting, and fishing for
subsistence - and a good relationship with the local environment. However, the
SPDC began to confiscate their rice fields and dig mines more than ten years ago,
because their fields were along the Lido Highway.
In here there has been a lot of mining for ten years now. Before mining sites came,
we were farming in our fields. But now, our rice fields have disappeared. Our rice
fields are becoming mining sites. Our Shing Bwe Yang dwellers used to have their
own rice fields but all of those rice fields have gone now.70
A local grandmother.
According to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights Article 17:
(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hukawng Valley#column one
Rice fields now mining sites. (Photo by Myu Shadang).
The Burmese military regime is violating the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, and its own domestic property law, which states that if someones action
causes damage to anothers property it violates domestic law.71
The law is supposed to protect public property. But everyone must follow the laws
except the SPDC: in reality, we cannot see the rule of law operating in Burma. The
military junta acts however they want. Mining companies invade and confiscate
farm fields to turn them into mining sites. Local farmers do not actually want to
allow mining to take the place of their rice fields.
Some miners dig under the Shing Bwe Yang stream. Authorities limited mining in
the area before; now they allow the digging of mines on local rice fields. At first
nobody could enter into Shing Bwe Yang Township to dig mines. The town and the
rice fields were separated by the Shing Bwe Yang stream. But, they gave permis-
sion to dig over the stream and into the Town. Shing Bwe Yang has four quarters.
They already confiscated and started digging in all of the quarters except the first
quarter. They saved the first quarter because the SPDC has offices, schools, a
hospital, and some houses there. Now in the rainy season it floods every year
because miners dig the stream.72
Union of Myanmar Ya zatat kyi, Property Law (April 1963), Chapter 14, Article 268.
Mines are causing serious problems for the lives of the villagers. People do not
have adequate food and clothing. The Burmese government has a responsibility to
fulfill international law. Article 11 of the International Convention on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) says that state parties must recognize the
right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family,
including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improve-
ment of living conditions. It says that state parties must take appropriate steps to
ensure the realization of these rights. The Burmese regime is violating these
Local residents were experts in farming in the tradition of their ancestors. Until the
mines came, local people were satisfied with their livelihoods and loved their
land. Now they face a crisis of livelihood.
Every person has the right to work according to Article 6 of the ICESCR. This
Convention states that each person has the right to gain his living by work which
he freely chooses or accepts. But in this mining area people no longer have work.
The mines have taken over or destroyed traditional livelihoods. Some people
work in the mines by hand but the work is difficult; the people have no expertise.
It is hard for them to survive.
Miners work with big machines. (Photo by Myu Shadang).
Authorities give permission to dig mines on our farmlands. Companies confis-
cate them from farm owners. I didnt want to sell my rice fields for mining. But
they forced me to sell and threatened me.73
Residents face an income cri-
sis in Shing Bwe Yang Town-
ship; because of mining
peoples rice fields are gone
and they cannot plant veg-
etables. The population is
growing at the same time that
there is a lack of land for
planting. People are forced to
buy expensive vegetables and
rice. Parents have to go to
mining sites to make enough
High School, Shing Bwe Yang. (Photo by Myu Shadang).
money to survive every day.
Nobody cares for their children to go to school and for an adult, for vocational
training or something. Children follow their parents to the mining sites. Therefore,
children in Shing Bwe Yang lack education.74
Parents also do not encourage their children in education because their priority is
making money to survive. The mines have changed almost all aspects of the
villagers lives, including their culture and dress. Before the mining sites, people
used wood and bamboo for their houses. But now, they can not make them with
those tools. They are very difficult to get. Materials that have been used by the
people for a long time are disappearing. Before, the people were living with their
families and they were satisfied. However, now there are many kinds of night-
clubs and karaoke shops, encouraging corruption amongst local residents. Women
and girls lives are also changing for the worse.
Some ladies and girls are going to work in the sex industry and in massage cen-
A local NGO representative.
Pan Kachin Development Society.
In mining sites in the Hugawng Valley a lot of mining workers use opium and
heroin. Opium and heroin use is causing corruption and other negative results in
society and consequently all countries are against it. The Burmese military regime,
however, still allows people to use these drugs. The authorities only pretend to
clean up opium and
heroin in Kachin State.
In the Hugawng Valley
mining sites, the au-
thorities allow people
to distribute drugs at
the sites. No one checks
to see if anyone is car-
rying heroin and busi-
with authorities to carry
the heroin. Some people
steal and also distribute
the drugs. Some miners and local people use opium freely.(Photo by Myu Shadang).
I know who is trading heroin and how they distribute it in here. But I dont want to
tell that name. I knew how they steal when they arrive in the mining sites.75
Some drug carriers use women and girls to carry the drugs and be their victims.
They use ladies to carry heroin through checkpoints. The ladies hide it inside their
bodies. They put heroin into a small bottle and then into a condom. After they
arrive in mining sites, the drug is distributed freely.76
Almost all mining owners allow their workers to use opium and heroin. Workers
believe that when they use opium during work time, they can concentrate better
on their work.
Some mining owners support opium and heroin use daily. They believe they
can get more work done this way.77
A mining worker
Before the mining sites came, local people only used opium for cultural medicine.
Now there is a great amount of corruption and addiction in the community.
Displacement as Villagers Flee to Other Villages
Most of Shing Bwe Yangs people are poor. They were just farmers until mining
sites started on their farms. When they started mining in Shing Bwe Yang, resi-
dents faced frequent forced relocation. Many people have been constantly threat-
ened by the military and have become depressed and scared. Therefore, some of
the local people flee to nearby Hkalung Village.
My aunt fled to Hkalung Village from Shing Bwe Yang Township. The authorities
forced relocation over and over again and again.78
A Shing Bwe Yang youth.
Most local residents face joblessness in their homeland. Some villagers try to work
in the fields to the right side of the Lido Highway. Unfortunately, it is very difficult
for them to farm there or get food. The SPDC recognized the right side of the Lido
Highway as a conservation area without thinking about consequences for local
people. Some farmers have been
stealing land from inside the jungle
but were caught and punished by
I am amazed by the SPDC. They
dont recognize what they have done
to us. I am really hurt when I think
about my rice fields. We must buy
every vegetable and it is very ex-
pensive. How I will survive in fu-
A grandmother points to where her rice field used to be.
ture I dont know.79 (Photo by Myu Shadang).
(Photo by Myu Shadang).
Gold mining in Hugawng Valley is destroying the environment and violating
local livelihoods. The military regime makes money in the Hugawng Valley so
that they can develop, and to buy military weapons. The junta has spent more than
40% of the national budget on the military, while IMF figures estimate that under
1% of GDP is spent on health and education.80
Military development is causing environmental problems in Tong Mali mining
sites and destroying livelihoods in Shing Bwe Yang Township. The SPDC has been
perpetrating these abuses for ten years; however, we cannot see any infrastructure
growth in Kachin State. Miners do not benefit because they are heavily taxed. The
Sea Sun Star Company and Burmese government benefit greatly from Hugawng
Valley mining sites. Military camps increase every year in Kachin State; many are
based in the Hugawng Valley so the government can extort money and goods
from the public. Local people and mine workers give property and labor to the
military and companies involuntarily.
Driven Away, Kachin Womens Association, Thailand, page 11.
The SPDC is violating human rights in Shing Bwe Yang Township. It confiscates
local rice fields and no one is allowed to protest their actions. International law
says that everybody has right to complain equally. However, this is not the case in
Burma. The people of Shing Bwe Yang are made poorer and poorer by the
Burmese military regime and its mines. The environment and local villages are
being destroyed. The people are sacrificing their own land and lives to make
money for the SPDC.
To the State Peace and Development Council:
Stop violent action against the environment.
Follow and implement domestic environmental law.
Cooperate with local people to conserve the environment.
Respect all international human rights conventions and customary laws.
Stop human rights violations against Shing Bwe Yang dwellers.
Respect local livelihoods.
To the Kachin Independent Organization (KIO):
Stop cooperating with the SPDC.
Stop the violent action against the environment.
Stop encouraging mining in the Hugawng Valley.
To the international community:
Pressure the Burmese government to implement international conventions.
Encourage the SPDC to implement environmental policy.
Pressure the SPDC to stop human right violations in the whole of Burma.
Pressure China to stop buying products from Burma.
To companies and miners in the Hugawng Mining Sites:
Stop cooperating and/or working with the SPDC.
Stop destroying the environment in Hugawng Valley.
Respect your positive cultural traditions.
Think about future generations.
Social & Environmental Impacts of Deforestation
in Northern Chin State, Burma
Trees are vital to the ecosystem that sustains human life. The Chin Hills are
composed of mountains that were once covered with deep forests. They are
inhabited by beautiful wild flowers and all kinds of wild animals. In the past, the
Chin Hills forest produced enough resources, the river bore satisfactory products,
and the fields gave sufficient food for humans.
After World War II, the Chin State was destroyed. People cannot survive like
before. The population continues to increase and there is not enough food, ani-
mals, forest, or farms to support the population. The economic crisis has resulted
in migration to the plains. In addition, since 1990, many people have left Chin State
due to civil war. Although people did not want to leave their homes, they had no
choice. Most of the Chin people have gone to other countries because they cannot
get enough food or work in their own land.81
85% of Chin people are farmers and hunters; they have no other jobs. They spend
their whole life in the forest. Chin people are dependent on farming so they need a
sound environment, good weather and sustainable natural resources to work
with. When the land is destroyed they face a lot of problems. Unscientific cultiva-
tion systems and unwise traditional uses of the forests are causing environmental
degradation and an ecological crisis. The lack of environmental and ecological
knowledge is the root cause of environmental problems in the Chin Hills.82
The Burmese government does not support education, or economic or rural devel-
opment. The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) takes resources by
force from the people because they need money to make their military stronger
and for their own benefit. Most Chin people are uneducated. They do not know
how to protect the environment.
Deforestation threatens the existence of all living creatures including humans and
it causes further climate change. Today barren hills are appearing and beautiful
wild flowers and valuable wild animals are disappearing due to deforestation.
The weather is also changing these days. During the period of research that
informed this paper, there was no rain until the end of May in Northern Chin
Thin Thang Journal Vol.1 (Community Development Initiative), November 2006, page 1.
Thesis: Toward a new understanding of ecology in the Lai Christian community of the Chin
Hills, Joel Za Hlei Kap, page 1.
State. Usually rain comes in March. People were waiting for the rain and were
unable to cultivate their fields.
If the government continues to ignore rural development, there will be more de-
forestation and more negative environmental impacts in Northern Chin State.
This report reveals the ongoing economic crisis and lack of ecological awareness in
the Chin community due to the SPDCs actions. This report explains the causes of
problems in Chin State and identifies solutions to solve those problems. Further-
more, the report seeks to develop a new understanding of ecology and its restora-
tion through sustainable development. Sustainable development not only protects
the environment but also reduces poverty.
The report proceeds as follows: Part 1 describes the background of Chin State and
the Chin people. Part 2 identifies the causes of deforestation in Northern Chin
State. Part 3 examines environmental problems caused by deforestation. Part 4
looks at social problems that result from this situation.
There were multiple stages involved in this research. First, I consulted with my
mentors about where to perform my work and how I should do it. I also obtained
advice from the local leader of the Chin community. I next did secondary internet
research. Finally, to perform my fieldwork I went to Falam and Hakha Townships
in Chin State. I interviewed twenty people including church pastors, the headmas-
ter of theology, a lawyer, community leaders, elders, hunters, and farmers.
Background of Chin State
Chin State in Burma is bordered by India to its north, Rakhine State, Burma to its
south, Bangladesh and India to its west and Magwe and Sagaing divisions to its
east. It is 13,907 square miles. There are two districts: Falam district and Mindat
district; and nine Townships: Falam, Hakha, Thlantlang, Tedim, Tonzang, Matupi,
Mindat, Kanpalet and Paletwa, which are further divided into 505 village tracts. 83
Mountains in Chin State average 5000 feet in height (1523 meters). The highest
http://www.asterism.info/states/13: State and division Chin state
mountain is Khawnumtung (Victoria) located in Mindat district, at 10,200 feet
Chin people typically work in agriculture; however, it has not developed as
widely in the traditional sense because of a scarcity of large valleys and plains in
Chin State. Rather, shifting cultivation is prevalent. Teak forests and other hard
woods are found below 900 meters. Above 900 meters, there are many oak and
pine trees. Teak, pines, canes, resin and turpentine are important forest products.
Since electricity is not available in most villages, people depend on the wood for
The main mode of transportation in Chin State is cars, however, the roads are poor
as they are cut along the sides of mountains valleys. It is very difficult to travel
because of the landscape as well as landslides. Cars have to bring shovels and
garden hoes to clear frequent landslides and stone cover. Given these challenges,
Chin villagers normally travel by foot from village to village.
Background of Chin Culture
Chin people have their own culture and religion through which they maintain
their morality, social life, and history. Chin people believe in Khawzing (Nature).
Khawzing is not worshipped, but is viewed as ruling over everything, including
spirits. Traditionally, the best way fulfill the will of Khawzing is to get along with
ones fellow human beings and to live in harmony with the rest of nature including
animals. Shooting many wild animals and harvesting many crops is meaningful,
because it is accepted as being favored by Khawzing. When Chin people shot a big
wild animal and/or get a good harvest, Chin people hold a feast of celebration
with the whole village and everyone shares the joy together.85 Many kinds of Chin
traditional music come from wood and bamboo instruments. Most Chin hand-
made materials (i.e. baskets) are from bamboo.
Importance of Trees & Forests to Chin People
Trees are extremely important for the vitality of life, especially for Chin people.
There are many useful wild trees in Chin State. Houses, huts and animal pens are
commonly built by using wood and bamboo. Pine trees are also used for building
homes and building fires. Usually, 30 to 50 pine trees are needed for the building of
Thesis by Joel Za Hlei Kap (see above), page 10.
one house. Also important, Chin people produce many kinds of medicine using
local trees and animals.86 Chin people commonly travel by on foot so trees are also
important for providing shade and shelter for those who are in transit.87 The Chin
peoples survival depends on their relationship with the earth: and therefore it
also largely depends on the climate.
Medicine & Livelihood
The trees and animals in Chin State produce natural medicines that provide for the
health and well-being of the people. If an animal is killed for medicine, almost the
whole animal will be used. Traditionally, Chin people have been able to maintain
a healthy balance in their interaction with the local environment and survive very
well. Mountain rice, wheat, maize, coffee, oranges, damson (one kind of palm
tree), and apples are traditionally grown with a system of shifting cultivation. The
Chin do not traditionally use any machinery in doing their agricultural work. 88
Starting in around 1988, after a change in SPDC policy, natural resources were
increasingly taken away and people could not survive as they had before. People
had to start working jobs with the methods that they were told because it was not
their land and that did have any investment in it. The SPDCs policies and land
confiscation practices caused significant deforestation and environmental prob-
lems though methods including cutting firewood, fishing by chemical and dyna-
mite, getting orchids to sell, hunting and cultivation. Today it is very difficult to
get hard wood and big trees. Even they struggle with violently hard work, they
can not become rich, only receiving meager daily wages. 89
Deforestation in Chin State
Chin State Before Deforestation
Before 1990 Chin State was full of deep forests. There were evergreen forests
everywhere; the state was beautiful. There were many kinds of beautiful flowers
including rhododendrons, and various kinds of small and endangered animal
species including tigers, deer etc. The Kaladan River flowed strongly and was
beautiful. It flows from India to Chin State and through Rakhine State and has pine
trees along the banks.
Interviews 1, 2, 6 and 8.
Interviews 3, 11, and 20.
I cant describe how beautiful it was. If we defend the forest, we dont need to
ever go to another beautiful country. This area is good for a tourist attraction. The
forest produces many natural resources, and there is enough food from the land.
The trees can make the people peaceful.90
Before deforestation, the climate was regular. 90 % of the land was full of trees in
Chin State. In the new era, people log the evergreen forest and now there is
drought. The rivers have narrowed and dried up, the weather is hotter. Nowadays
there are grasses instead of trees.
Causes of Deforestation
The SPDC has very good laws for
forestry, but has not followed
them. When the people want to
destroy the evergreen forest they
pay money to the leader of the
military or of the forestry unit, and
then they can cut the trees. There
is no need to go to an office or a
court, a criminal can give money
and there is an understanding.
SPDC civil servants are also poor;
they do not get enough salary.
SPDC and the Forestry Depart-
ment were cooperating to log trees
for furniture and house building
wood for their own benefit with-
out tax at the border of Chin State
and Kalay Town (Sagaing divi-
sion). The junta orders the SPDC Logging at the border of Chin State and Sagaing Division.
(Photo by Icon).
civil servants to allow logging as a
way of paying their salaries.
In the summer the SPDC brings wood by 12 trucks every day for 4 months. Before
the trucks come, elephants carry the trees and they make trips 3 times in a day. In
1 trip they can bring 8 tons of wood. They send wood from inside Burma to India
and China. Since 1088, people have not known how much the wood is being sold
for. It does not produce benefits for local people. When a civil servant cuts one
tree, he gets 3,000 kyat from the SPDC.
The SPDC has claimed that the condition of forests was as follows:
# Forest Production strength Collected Collected
Resources 2001 2002 Taxes (kyat) Taxes (kyat)
1. Teak Tons 13,262 11,500 45,000 22,500
2. Hardwood Tons 13,410 12,613 15,000 3,750
3. Bamboo Tons 8,593,000 8,848,000 432,000 92,250
4. Fire Wood Tons 614,717 259,849 150,000 120,000
5. Coal Tons 440 432 60,000 45,000
Even though the government has given their exact production statistics, no one denies
that forests are destroyed and exploited beyond what this statistic shows. Trees are
cut down for export, for firewood and coal, for building houses, baking bricks, corn
fields, and for the families. These are all contributing factors leading to deforestation.91
There are three sources of electric power in northern Chin State. Namely: 1.
Tongva hydro-electricity, Hakha, 2. Var and laiva hydro-electricity, Falam and 3.
Zaluyi hydro-electricity, Tedim. However, none of this electricity has reached the
rural areas. Around 78.44% of Chin States population is rural,92 many pine trees
are used for light and thousands of pine trees have been lost and destroyed. There
is no fuel except firewood; this is a significant cause of deforestation in Chin State.
The SPDC is a dictatorship and the local people cannot complain and cannot do
anything without an order from the government.93 The government is focused on
making money at any cost. If people request a logging permit and pay a high tax,
they can destroy any forest. The village head cannot punish them because they will
say, we got the permit from the SPDC.94 Even those who are responsible for
taking care of the forests will accept bribes and allow logging. After paying
money, the tree cutters can continue their job.95
Ecological Crisis in Chin Land, document from a file with the author (Jason), page 17.
Chin State Solidarity and Development Union Record, 2005.
The SPDC civil leaders are very nice because we can order their underlings
and we can do whatever job we like, when we are free.96
The SPDC has cut down many trees to make it easy for them to be able to see their
enemy. Before the SPDC set up its camps, the local people enjoyed the forest and
would pray or have picnics on the mountain. The SPDC set up a military station
around the mountain for security, but actually it is not for security at all. The
SPDC threatens and tortures people and now people cannot go to the mountain.97
Chin people cultivate 194,309 acres each year (The table of Division ground, 24
January 2006). One out of every three acres has gone to cultivation.98 As the major
occupation is agriculture, people are growing various kinds of crops by the system
of shifting cultivation with mattocks, and do not use any other machines.
The system of shifting cultivation is also called slash and burn cultivation. At first
people cut the trees in October or November, this is called Vah Hau in Chin. The
trees are burned two times in February or March the following year. The dark
smoke covers the whole of the Chin Hills every year from February until early
May. Nevertheless, the Chin community does not recognize the danger of air
pollution because they lack scientific knowledge.99 They plant crops for three days
after the burn. But they have to wait for the first rain. At the beginning of March it
regularly rains for the first time. The harvest time depends on the climate, if the
rain is regular, they can harvest three months later. How the Chin use the field
during the year depends on the land. They have to change the land every one to
three years because the fallow field was destroyed.100
When people burn the forest for cultivation, it always over burns and destroys the
forest and not only the focus area. Therefore, the wild animals and flowers are also
lost. Burning is one of the reasons the forest is destroyed. Despite that this
continues happen on a wide scale, the present government has no records of
deforestation in the Chin Land.
Thin Thang Journal Vol.1 (Community Development Initiative), November 2006, page 3.
Thesis, Joel Za Hlei Kap (see above), pages 21 23.
Interviews 3, 6, 11, and 13.
After 1995 the good trees disappeared more and more because of the need for
firewood. Yearly, the Chin were cutting at least 14,828,200 of trees (around 500,000
tons). The firewood is used in the kitchen because there is no electricity or other
fuel. Almost every Chin family has to use firewood for cooking and for warmth
Most people cut down trees and divide them for the ease of bringing the trees
down from the mountain area. They also send the wood from the mountain to the
plains by bicycle or car. Every family uses three tons of wood every year. One ton
is equal to 200 trees.
Villagers pay 1,000 kyat to the forestry office for one year of tree use. If they want
to get more, they pay more. Around 300 tons of trees are deforested per village per
year. The private companies are cutting the trees by group; there are 100 groups of
Gathering firewood on roadside in Hakha Town. (Photo by Icon).
Interviews 11 and 14.
businesses cutting yearly. They each have to pay a tax of 3,000 kyat to the leader of
the military in the village; 5,000 kyat to the leader of forestry; and also 5,000 kyat to
the towns forestry office. In
addition, they force the log-
ger to put their wood as they
want in 3 or 4 sections. The
cost of one section is equal to
Business people bring trees
by car or bullock cart and sell
them at their village and in
town. They can bring 12 tons
per trip by car in a week. One
ton of firewood costs 35,000
to 40,000 kyat. Each group
can bring three tons of fire-
Every family keeps firewood at their houses. (Photo by Icon).
wood in a day.
The foresters do not give permits to log good trees, because they have their own
purpose for them, but some people log them anyway. If forestry officials catch the
loggers, they collect 5,000 kyat for one piece of timber. As a result, all of the local
mountains have become barren, contributing to flooding during monsoon rains.
Loggers cut the trees between December and March. In the rainy season they
cannot cut because it is too difficult to go into the mountains, and in the summer,
they cannot use water because it is all dried up. People cut trees that are 12 or more
years old. One of the problems is they do not have enough trucks, and they do not
have enough money to rent trucks. The rental fee is expensive at 300,000 kyat for
one time. Truck owners benefit the most; the forestry leaders benefit second most,
and loggers struggle to benefit.
Businessmen can log hardwood after paying a tax. They are not allowed to log
green timber and plank, because forestry officials need it for their own benefit. If a
logger breaks the rules and is caught they used to be put into jail for seven years;
now it is more, because officials want additional money.102
Interviews 11 and 14.
Burning the Forest
Before burning forest you must request a permit from the village head or relevant
person. Then you must clear an area at least 10 feet wide of grass and shrubs to
contain the fire.103
In the past, there were various
kinds of wild animals includ-
ing tigers in the Chin Hills. The
Burmese military burned the
forest to get wild animals into
the areas of their battalions.
While the forest was burning,
animals escaped and the mili-
tary shot them with their guns.
Before 1995, local people could
hunt on the mountains with
Burnt hill between Falm and Hakha towns. (Photo by Icon).
their guns. After the govern-
ment acquired guns, in 1988, the
local people were no longer allowed to hunt with their guns. The local people had
to explain to the government that the guns were not for shooting humans and
eventually the government gave permits for gun use to the Chin people. The Chin
guns have licenses. A Chin gun is different than others; it weighs more than 2 kilos.
Around 1995, the forest was very healthy; a senior hunter could get all kinds of
wild animals including tigers. Many people hunted animals by burning the forests
until they started to lose their lives. People were caught in fires and killed while
trying to catch animals.
Hunting is a part of Chin culture; almost all Chin men traditionally hunted
animals, but did not sell the meat. When they got wild animals they held feasts and
hosted social gatherings. It was an important part of people seeing their families
and talking. In 1980, the animal prices went up. Nowadays many Chin people
hunt animals for their profession. After hunting became a business, the animals
quickly started to disappear.
Chin State law (1964) Section 2, Number 4.
Wild flowers and some species of small and endangered animals were lost by
burning the forests. In addition, the people cannot grow any crops when the forest
is burned. According to interviews for this paper, some people have killed and
sold from anywhere between 60 to as many as 1,000 animals. One barking deer is
more than 30,000 kyat; one deer is 300,000 kyat right now.104
Cultivation of Tea & Castor
The government forced people to plant tea and castor in 1998. There was no plan
for this project; they just forced people to plant in almost the whole of Chin State.
Every village had to plant 20 acres and 10 villages combined to plant in one place.
There are still tea and castor plantations in the Chin Hills but crops do not grow
well. Out of 1,000 acres, only 100 can be harvested.105
Tea needs a lot of water and the government has not invested in caring for the
trees. There is drought and therefore this project cannot develop and does not
bode well for Chin peoples livelihoods. This project has destroyed the forest more
because people have had to cut it down to plant tea trees. In addition, businessmen
take advantage of the project and request permits to plant many acres of tea.
However, when they get the permits they destroy the forests and plant other crops
that they want for their business.106
After the SPDC ordered people to plant the tea and castor, local people did not
want to cultivate any other crops. The Forestry Ministry forces people to plant
according to their projects. Every
family paid 1,500 kyat for one bag
of tea seed. In addition, every fam-
ily paid a tax of more than 24,300
kyat for one year to the forestry
office. The SPDC said, Chin State
must be a tea state and the plan-
tation of castor is the obligation of
men. This project aimed to en-
able the SPDC to trade tea and
castor to other countries, but they
have not been successful yet.107
Interviews 16 and 19. A castor field in Chin State planted by force for the SPDC.
Interviews 17 and 19. (Photo by Icon).
Interviews 7, 15, and 20.
Interviews 11 and 15.
In the past year the SPDC has ordered villagers to plant castor oil on their land. If
people deny that order, they have to relocate by warrant of the SPDC. In addition,
the Burmese military authorities have warned people that they would award the
death sentence to anyone who speaks about the drawbacks of castor plantations in
In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 17, we can see that Every-
one has the right to own property.109 Furthermore, the right of all peoples to enjoy
their inherent freedom and to enjoy natural wealth and resources is expressed in
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 47. The SPDC
does not follow these conventions in Chin State.
Every Chin person has to work as forced labor for this project at least three times a
week. SPDC civil servants do not attend their office due to this project.
We are lying to each other because we knew that castor cannot grow well in
Chin State. So we are working only by name.110
Castor cultivation destroys the land by its oil. After it is planted, people cannot
grow any crops and the land becomes barren land. Traditional Chin lands will
more disappear because of the castor plantations.
Economic Crisis & Poverty
95% of Chins are in poverty and because of poverty they commit corruption and
injustice. Before 1988, every villager could survive by their own means. Between
1984 and 1987, a student could attend theology school at the expense of 80 kyat for
one month. After a change in SPDC policy, natural resources have been taken
away and everything costs more than before, so local people cannot survive very
well and poverty is worse. The people have had to start working jobs which
Private business began logging a lot of trees for their livelihood. The trees are sold
in their villages and in the plains. They have to pay a lot of tax to the forestry
ministry and the military.
Khonumthung News, 12 July 2006, via Burma Net News, 26 July 2006.
Interviews 17 and 20.
The staff or officers get a salary of around 20,000 kyat per month. They do not get
sufficient money, so they have to work at other jobs.112 A senior carpenter gets
4,500 kyat in a day; this is a good salary. Other junior people get 800 kyat per day.
A worker who is an expert can get 1,500 kyat. However, most people cannot find
work. Many youths and fathers are living jobless. The result of this poverty is
cheating, exploiting, and robbing each other.
The cost of meat is more than 5,500 kyat for a viss (one viss is equal to 1.6
kilograms), so people cannot treat their visitors to dinner. One rice sack is 45,000
kyat. Also, it is at least 4,500 kyat for a piece of cloth. Therefore, it is very difficult
for local people, especially for big families, to survive. People hunt animals, burn
the forest to cultivate it, and find orchids to get money. People are in a crisis of
livelihood. People are working hard and still cannot get enough food. Hard labor
threatens old people because they have to work until they die. The worst aspect of
this system is that people have no awareness and therefore cannot be liberated
from the structure of poverty.
Raising Cattle Causes Deforestation
Most local people breed cattle. Some families breed 100 bullocks. Around 10,000
bullocks are raised in Falam Town. Cattle-raising has happened since the era of
peoples grandfathers, but the people do not know how to raise cattle properly.
The bullocks can destroy the forest due to their grazing. When the villagers need
to move their fields, the land is already destroyed and they cannot cultivate it
again. When people need money they do not care what their action will do to the
land. They do not understand the long-term importance of the trees.
Deforestation & Orchids
Orchids grow on the old trees and they like deep forests. Various kinds of orchids
grow in Chin State. Orchids are good for some kinds of medicine which the
Chinese make. The Chinese people get permission from the SPDC then they
contact the private businesses of Burmese people. Many villagers find orchids in
the deep forests on the mountain. Around 1,000 people find orchids every day.
This started around 1990. There is a very exact process, step-by-step: villager to
Orchid growing on a tree. (Photo by Icon).
private business, business to China. The orchids have different costs; some kinds
are 3,000, 5,000 or 15,000 kyat for one viss.113 One person finds 16 to 32 kilograms of
orchids a day. A hundred thousand viss (16,000 kilograms) of orchids are sold
Foresters collect taxes from people who gather orchids. Gatherers pay 5,000 kyat
and then can sell the orchids. Some foresters go to markets to collect money.
People collect the orchids between November and May.114
100 year-old trees are cut down to get orchids. They do this because the orchids are
growing on the upper part of the trees. Various kinds of wild animals and wild
flowers are disappearing with the orchids. Nowadays grasslands are replacing the
Interviews 2, 5, 7, and most others.
Interviews 6 and 7.
Destroyed Forest & Land
After burning the forest, the land is unusable for the next 15 years. During those 15
years, 3 million acres could have been cultivated.116 Chin State is mountainous.
Deforestation has resulted in tons of topsoil being eroded. Soil erosion results in a
poor harvest. People need to buy food from the plains area due to the poor harvest,
which further results in the loss of money. Many people move to the plains or
other countries to search for better and more convenient places to live.117
The land is not good for cultivation because of the erosion. The rich people use
pesticides and organic chemicals. They are helpful in the short term, but the next
time the land is used it has become worse and unhealthy. Land can only be
cultivated for one additional year before moving to another place.
The land in Chin State was destroyed by 1990. The climate and the earth were
changed due to deforestation. When people cut down the evergreen forest, it
cannot grow again
by itself because it
is different from
other trees. Today,
trees are growing
miles away from
the village. In ru-
ral areas people
have no assurance
of food for their
lives, so many
people have left
their villages and
run to where they
can get enough
food to live. Falam forest ruined. (Photo by Icon).
Thing Thang Journal, page 3.
Lost Species of Small Animals
Between 1970 and 1990 there were all kinds of animals living in Chin State,
including tigers, deer, barking deer, fox, rabid dog, big monkey, gibbon, apes,
boar, weasels, wolves, jacks, leopards, rhinos, and elephants. The hornbill is one of
the Chin symbols for culture; it shows honesty and loyalty. Nowadays it is extinct.
70% of birds are now extinct in Chin State.
People could hunt various wild animals in most forests of Chin State before. Most
hunters got animals and at least 200 animals skins were sold each month. Those
skins were sold to Mandalay and then were exported to China by businessmen.
After 1990 hunters could not get animals because the forest was thin and de-
stroyed by logging and burning. Most of the wild animals were lost due to
deforestation. When the trees grew without fruits, the animals also faced a lack of
food and they could not breed for their next generation. In addition, they did have
not enough places to live, so they moved to the thick forests. Especially when the
animals market prices went up, the wild animals decreased in number quickly.
When I was 18 years old, I started to hunt. I heard the voices of different kinds of
animals from my house; I went one furlong away from the house. I got more than
three wild animals with my gun during a short time. I didnt know how big the
jungle or forest was because there was no need to go so far. Most of wild animals
were near my home. I got 144 wild animals. After 1990, we lost a lot of species
because of burning and cutting. They dont have enough places.118
Pollution from Burning
There is no scientific equipment to test pollution in Chin State. But people can see the
ashes from burning forest without a microscope. The people catch colds and sneeze
often during the two months when they burn the forests until their lungs turn black.
Deforestation & Water
Today, many springs in the Chin Hills do not produce fresh water anymore. The
waste from deforestation is flowing into the river and the fish eat the pollution. It
produces negative effects in humans also. Brooks, streams, and rivers are dried up
and evaporating rapidly due to deforestation. Air pollution is often a serious
problem in large cities.119
Interviews 5 and 16.
Ecological Crisis in Chin Land, document from a file with author, page 16. (He finished a Masters
Trees prevent floods and droughts as well as holding topsoil in place. Chin State
was very cold not only in the winter but also in the summer before. Today the
weather is very hot because there are no trees. If we look particularly at the capital
city Hakha, before the land faced the effects of deforestation, they got 18,000
gallons of water per day. But today, they can get only between 7,000 and 10,000
gallons of water per day.120
The Chin peoples suffering from climate change is seen clearly from the year 2000
and onwards. Especially the rainy season has changed from twenty years ago (the
era of General U Ne Win). The river cannot flow like before, it is dried up, not only
the river but also the state. There is not enough drinking water and people fight
each other about stealing water. Not only humans have felt the drought, but all
living things have. The climate of Chin land is now unhealthy and effects human
life and endangers the future of the land. Therefore, climate change is a big
problem in Chin land today.121
People cultivating crops depend on the rain. The crops need water, so the crops
cannot grow when the climate is changed. They have not had enough water. In
2003 and 2007 they did not succeed at all because of drought. When they needed
the water it did not rain, and when they do not want the rain, it is raining worse.
They have no food for the next year. In 2008 it did not rain until the end of May,
local people could not grow the crops or rice at all. There is no other job to do; they
are waiting for the rain. They do not know how they will survive for the next year.
They are working hard but the harvest is poor because of climate change.
Article 23 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights states that Everyone has
the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of
work and to protection against unemployment.122
Forests are the major economic resources for the survival of the Chin people.
People are finding escape routes rather than struggling against poverty. They
Ibid., page 11.
Interviews 9, 11, and 14.
cannot harvest enough food. There are two
kinds of poverty in the Chin Hills: physical
poverty and emotional poverty. The environ-
mental destruction affects both kinds of pov-
erty. In physical poverty human value is de-
creasing and material value is increasing. Men-
tal poverty and psychological poverty lead to
selfish interpretation of creatures, which can-
not foresee the next generation.123
Cultivation during drought. (Photo by Icon).
After 1988, many families relocated to India and to the flat lands in Burma due to
battles between the SPDC and the rebel Chin organization. The SPDC accused
villagers and local people of disobeying them, and tortured them. People could
not stay securely in their villages; as a result, it was difficult for them to find a
About 50,000 Chin people abandoned their homeland and took refuge in foreign
countries in the past year to escape oppression by a brutal military regime in
Burma. The military is still forcing Chin people to work on army camp construc-
tion, carrying army rations without paying them, and is confiscating land in Chin
State. As a result, people have fled their homeland. There are no other options for
a career except farming in Chin State.124 In the beginning, most mature Chin males
hunted animals. There was no trading in Chin culture. But after they could not
survive they had to sell everything that they had. The Chin are economically poor
due to a poor economic system.
Education & Ignorance
The system of teaching in Burma is too limited. Most teachers were never deeply
convinced of the original meaning and purpose of education. Rather they use
memorization. Many students pass exams without proper qualifications and with-
out reading a single book. Therefore many do not have ecological knowledge.
Hence, most Chin seem to be completely ignorant about the ecological crisis.125
Chin State is the only state in Burma without an airport for public transportation
and without a university to equip young people for their futures. Few young
people have the opportunity to obtain higher education due to poverty. Poor
Thesis by Joel Za Hlei Kap (see above), page 81.
Khonumthung News, 21 February 2007 (Oppression in Chin state forces people to abandon
homeland), page 5.
The Root Causes of Ecological Crisis, document on file with author, page 47.
people are automatically excluded from the educated circle. This is against the
Convention on the Rights of the Child Article 27, which says: States Parties must
recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the childs
physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.
In 1950, the government built a hospital in Falam Township; there are no other
private hospitals. After building the hospital, there is not enough medicine and
equipment. Only rich people can go to the hospital, it is not for poor people
because they discriminate a lot and the cost is so high. Therefore many people died
due to poverty. When the poor were sick they could make medicine from the
forest, but when the forest was destroyed the poor lost their traditional medicines.
Diseases have increased and the trees cannot bear fruits as before. People often
suffer from burning eyes, sore throats, and coughs as by-products of urban life. In
addition, people are suffering nowadays from ailments that are different from 15
years ago. Now, diseases are caused through breathing dirty air. Dirty air may
cause much more harmful problems than minor irritations. Dirty air can cause
cancer and birth defects. In addition, the people suffer from malaria and dysentery
from water pollution due to lack of fresh water and dried up streams.126
The Declaration on the Right to Development Article 3 says that, States have the
primary responsibility for the creation of national and international conditions
favorable to the realization of the right to development.
Chin State is being deforested and is losing its most valuable and beautiful natural
resources. Analyses of the root causes of deforestation have pointed to factors such
as poverty, corrupt politics, unjust taxes, dishonest courts, lack of education, lack
of economic development, the traditional way of living, the violence of ruling
classes, and the lack of electric power.127 All of these factors led people to change
their cultivation, cut firewood, burn forests, and to find and exploit orchids and
other forest resources. Deforestation has had a negative impact on the environ-
ment in the whole of Chin State.
We can sadly count the number of negative results of deforestation in Chin State.
The environment of Chin land appears as destroyed forest and land and some
Ecological Crisis in Chin Land, document on file with author, page 25.
The root causes of ecology crisis in Chin Land, page 35.
species of small animals are almost extinct. The land is covered with smoke
during the burning time for around four months and people face a lack of water in
the dried up land. The people suffer from bad health as a result of these environ-
The Chin people did not need to migrate to other countries before because before
their land could produce enough food and forest in a controlled climate. Cur-
rently, Chin people are living in an economic crisis and the lack of education is one
of the root causes of deforestation. Deforestation creates refugees; people cannot
get enough food to live. They are suffering double poverty - material poverty and
emotional or mental poverty. This causes a decline in loyalty and faithfulness of
the people.128 Almost all rural people are ignorant about the current ecological
crisis, due to a lack of education.
The SPDC ignorance of rural development is causing social and environmental
problems in the Falam and Hakha Townships of Northern Chin State. If the
government continues to ignore rural development, it will mean more deforesta-
tion and more causes for negative and destructive environmental impacts in
Northern Chin State.
In the northern Chin State there are few environmental activists and few health
organizations. There is no organization for rural development. A few individuals
and the ZTC (Zomi Theology College) could work in development and protect the
environment, but they need technical support and money.
This research reveals that one of the main needs of the Chin community is to
develop ecological knowledge and technical restoration in the Chin Hills. Techni-
cal restoration would not only prevent further environmental destruction but it
would also reduce the poverty by creating sustainable development. Sustainable
development will bring a new sound environment and a new understanding of
ecology to the communities of the Chin Hills.
To the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC):
To create social, political and economic development.
To provide basic needs for people in Chin State.
To respect and protect the Chin peoples rights and dignity.
Document on file with author, page 33.
To follow international environmental law as has already been agreed to.
To practice the Convention on the Rights of Child as was already signed.
To stop dividing the reserve forests.
To stop unjust taxes.
To stop using forced labor for planting tea and castor.
To make decision through just and fair courts.
To stop corruption in business.
To support sustainable livelihoods for rural people.
To take responsibility for poverty.
To allow non-governmental organizations to do their work.
To build a university in Chin State.
To educate the people on how to protect the environment.
To provide technical assistance for Chin State in sustainable development.
To NGOs / environmental and human rights organizations:
To strongly pressure the SPDC to respect the international environmental law
that they signed and ratified.
To pressure the SPDC to ratify other human rights conventions and they have not
ratified such as the ICCPR or ICESCR.
To pressure the SPDC to establish NGOs and CBOs to protect the environment
and reduce poverty.
To provide adequate education resources so that the people have the opportunity
to receive quality education.
To educate people to understand environmental law.
To serve in restoration work for a sound environment.
To local communities:
To demand that the SPDC to preserve forests in each village.
To change from traditional shifting cultivation to permanent commercial farming
To change from hunting to caring for the valuable wild animals.
To change from an undisciplined animal rearing system to a systematic animal
To share environmental knowledge.
To protect the environment and maintain natural resources.
To Religious groups and other organizations:
To create programs to raise awareness about the environment.
To grow substitution crops every year.
SPDC Use of Forced Labor on the Electric Power Lines & the
Effect on Villagers in De Maw Soe Township, Karenni State
By Khon Nasa
When U Nu took power for the first time in October 1954, the Burmese cooperated
with two Japanese companies called Kajima and Nipon Ko Ee to construct the
hydropower plant at the Law Pi Ta waterfall. In 1960 they brought electricity from
Law Pi Ta to Rangoon successfully.129 The electric power line passes though the De
Maw Soe Township in Karenni State and many local peoples property was
confiscated by the military regime. After the electric power line was finished the
villagers were suffering and faced a lot of violence as a result of the military
regimes actions. The Burmese cities need electricity, so the regime uses forced
labor and abuses the human rights of Karenni people. The Karenni villagers have
already experienced suffering from violations of their human rights for a long
time. The Karenni villagers do not know for how much longer they must suffer
from the State Peace and Development Councils (SPDC) actions.
The purpose of this report is to inform the local and international communities
about how the SPDC forces the villagers to work, to take responsibility for electric
power lines and be on sentry duty at night in the pylon area. In 1955 the Burmese
military signed the International Labor Organization convention (ILO) NO.29 on
forced labor. However, despite the fact that they signed the ILO convention, the
villagers are still facing forced labor as a result of the military soldiers. The State
Peace and Development Council (SPDC) are ignoring the ILO and silently uses
forced labor in De Maw Soe township of Karenni State. This report aims to expose
the strategies used for forced labor and to force the villagers to take responsibility
for the pylons, despite the regime not providing any electricity for the villagers.
The villagers must take responsibility and offer their lands, houses, animals,
blood, sweat and energy from the dam site and down the power lines.
Part covers the international law standard according to the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights and International Labor Convention (ILO). Part two discusses
the forced labor situation including making fences for the pylons and guarding
electricity power line at night and day time. Part three covers the impact on the
lives of local people and animals, including the use of landmines.
Myanmar Encyclopedia (page 292).
Map of Karenni State and Power Transmission Line
The SPDC electric power line passes though local villagers lands, villages and forests.
(Photo by Khon Nasa).
The SPDC continues using force labor in Karenni State every day. The SPDC uses
various kinds of forced labor on villagers. The SPDC soldiers orders villagers to be
on sentry duty in the region of the pylons at night time. Anyone who does not obey
and follow the orders of the soldiers is fined and tortured. During the night time
there is no security for the villagers. There is also not enough sleep. They are
unable to go to their fields and they lose their income. When the SPDC soldiers
force them to clear the land, go as porters and make fences without compensation
they say it is voluntary and not forced labor.
Though villagers do everything that the Burmese military demands, the military
has no humane feelings and plants landmines near the villages, around the pylons
and near their camps. They even stipulated to the villagers that if they accidentally
explode a landmine, the villagers must pay a fine. It is one way of income for the
SPDC soldiers. Many local people are obliterated because the SPDC soldiers plant
landmines. It is very dangerous for local people to work and find their food.
Even though the Karenni villagers make fences and stand sentry for pylons every
year the electricity is not for them. Some house get electricity, but they have to pay
taxes and it is very expensive. Usually the villagers can only access the electricity
for five or six hours a day.
The situation of the villagers is dire. They are silently facing discrimination,
limited access to education, poor health care, and no access to electricity as an
ongoing result of the military regime. The SPDC soldiers do not care about the
villagers health, food security, elderly people, pregnant women and young people.
They only want to follow their order and say an order is order.
The research for this report was done in De Maw Soe Township, Burma in April
2008. Twelve interviews were conducted in total, including with local leaders,
farmers, ex-soldiers and interviews with people who had suffered from forced
labor by the SPDC soldiers and who were used to make fences in the region of the
pylons and sentry for pylons at the day and night time in De Maw Soe Township.
Ne Win took power of Burma in 1962. From 1968 to 1969 the Ne Win military
regime cut down the trees and cleared the Lawpita dam site, forcing all the
villagers to clear the dam site without payment.130 All villagers in Karenni State
had to give their time on the dam site and hoped that they would receive electric-
ity. However, the Burmese regime has only supplied electricity to Rangoon and
In 1970 Ne Win cooperated with a Swedish company and constructed a dam
project on the Shan and Kayah States border to organize the water for the Law Pi
Ta hydropower plant. This dam is called the Mobye Dam.131 It is built on the
Beluchan River. The river flows through Karenni State and it becomes a big
waterfall at Law Pi Ta, therefore the waterfall is called Law Pi Ta waterfall.
In 1973 the Law Pi Ta hydropower plants average output was 168 MW. A 402
kilometer-long electric transmission lines carries electricity to Rangoon and an-
other 400 kilometer-long transmission power line carries power to Mandalay. In
the end of 1992 the military government built Hydropower Plant No. 1, with an
average output of 28 MW.132
Those who live in Karenni State have no access to electricity in their homes until
now. When they have tried to get electricity from the military regime they were
ignored. The military regime uses Law Pi Ta electricity and makes weapons in
Rangoon. In addition the military soldiers use their weapons and force the local
people to take responsibility for the electricity power line. Some villagers were
killed by SPDC soldier. Therefore many local people are against the military
Ethnicity and Culture
De Maw Soe Township is located in the eastern part of Kayah State in Burma.134
The east of De Maw Soe Township is bordered by Shan State, in the north it is
bordered by Loikaw township, in the west it is bordered by Shadaw and Bawlakeh
townships and in south it is bordered by Prouso township. Many different kinds of
ethnic groups live in De Maw Soe Township. There are Kayan, Kayah, Pa O and
Kayaw people. Most of the villagers are farmers and they are very close to their
culture. They have their own traditions, languages and religions. Their villages are
very small and the village systems are different.
International Law Standards on Forced Labor
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) military regime is a member of
the United Nations. The international community has agreed on the human rights
law for their citizens. However, the SPDC does not follow the international
human rights law and pressures the local people to lose their rights. Many local
people are facing human rights abuses by the SPDC. Therefore the SPDC should
sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Interna-
tional Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
Dammed by Burmas Generals (2006) Karenni Development Research Group (KDRG), page 29.
Article (5) No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
The military soldiers torture and kill villagers who are absent from their sentry
duty at the pylons or work for the SPDC benefits. Therefore, the Burmese military
regime is in violation of human right according to the UDHR article (5).
Article (9) No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
The SPDC is also in violation of human rights according to the UDHR article (9).
For the reason that the SPDC soldiers arrest local people with out any reason and
people who do not stand sentry at the pylon are sometimes arrested by SPDC
Article (23) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal
All villager in Karenni State are facing force labor as a result of SPDC soldiers
every day for security of the electric power line, however, they have no access to
electricity in there house. The electricity is for Burmas cities and military officers.
The SPDC is in violation human rights according to UDHR article (23).
International Labor Organization Convention
The ILO convention prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor and the
SPDC has signed the International Labor Organization (ILO). They recently
announced that if any person is forced to work, they can complain to the ILO.
However, forced labor is increasing day by day. If some one complains to the ILO
the SPDC will threaten them with death. The ILO has the responsibility to
pressure the SPDC to follow what the convention said. The SPDC should obey the
Article (2) 1. For the purposes of this Convention the term forced or compulsory labor shall
mean all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty
and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.136
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Convention concerning Forced or Compulsory Labor (ILO No. 29), 39 U.N.T.S. 55, entered into
force 1 May 1932.
The SPDC force the Karenni villagers to build the fences for pylons every year
without any compensation. In that case the villagers have to take their own tools
and bamboos. Consequently the SPDC is in violation of ILO Article (2).
Article (18) Forced or compulsory labor for the transport of persons or goods, such as the
labor of porters or boatmen, shall be abolished within the shortest possible period. Mean-
while the competent authority shall promulgate regulations determining, inter alia, (a)
that such labor shall only be employed for the purpose of facilitating the movement of
officials of the administration, when on duty, or for the transport of Government stores, or,
in cases of very urgent necessity, the transport of persons other than officials, (b) that the
workers so employed shall be medically certified to be physically fit, where medical
examination is possible, and that where such medical examination is not practicable the
person employing such workers shall be held responsible for ensuring that they are
physically fit and not suffering from any infectious or contagious diseases, (c) the maxi-
mum load which these workers may carry, (d) the maximum distance from their homes to
which they may be taken, (e) the maximum number of days per month or other period for
which they may be taken, including the days spent in returning to their homes, and (1) the
persons entitled to demand this form of forced or compulsory labor and the extent to which
they are entitled to demand it. 2. In fixing the maxima referred to under (c), (d ) and (e) in
the foregoing paragraph, the competent authority shall have regard to all relevant factors,
including the physical development of the population from which the workers are recruited,
the nature of the country through which they must travel and the climatic conditions.
The SPDC soldiers force the villagers to transport their ammunition and equip-
ment. According to ILO Article 18(1) the SPDC is in violation of human rights.
Article (11)1. Only adult able-bodied males who are of an apparent age of not less than 18
and not more than 45 years may be called upon for forced or compulsory labor. Except in
respect of the kinds of labor provided for in article 10 of this Convention, the following
limitations and conditions shall apply ...
The SPDC soldiers not only force those between the ages of 18 to 45 to work, in
addition they force children to work in their camp, clearing and in sentry duty at
night. The villagers in Karenni State who are less than 18 years old have to stand
sentry at the pylons at night. According to ILO Article 11 the SPDC is in violation
of human rights.
The SPDC military junta continues forced labor practices in Burma. Ten of thou-
sands of men, women and children of all ages do many kinds of forced labor
including working in the military camp, building pylons, building highways,
working as porters, making fences for pylons and other infrastructure projects.
The SPDC calls this labor voluntary.
Around 127 Karenni villages are facing many problems because SPDC soldiers
force them to make fences, clearing brush, cutting down trees under the pylons, or
do sentry duty at night for around 100 pylons in De Maw Soe Township every
year. Each village has to take responsibility for each pylon and if anything hap-
pens the villagers must know about it. Villagers also have to build fences around
the pylons and sentry at night and during the day. If a villager is absent the
soldiers demand a fine.
The SPDC uses forced labor even in landmined areas, forcing villagers to porter in
the front row and using them to sweep for landmines. The villagers have to carry
heavy weights and the SPDC tells the villagers that if they cannot carry what the
soldier force them, the soldiers will torture or kill them. The SPDC forces the
people to work until the point of malnutrition or exhaustion. If the villagers get
sick from diseases there is no medicine for them.
Making the fence is not safe for villagers because around the pylon areas the SPDC
soldiers have planted thousands of landmines. The villagers must work with the
knowledge that if a landmines explode they will die in addition to the fact that
their family will have to give a fine to the SPDC soldiers.
The SPDC usually sends written orders to villagers demanding laborers and then
one person has to go for each family. If the family has no husband or boy in their
house they have to hire a person to go to the work site. They have to pay at least
2,500 kyat per day or more if the work is not finished. Sometimes they have to pay
for two or three days. As a result some families do not want to work several days
in a work site, so they bring their children with them to finish the work.
The work sites are very far from the villages and consequently the people have to
walk for many hours without any transportation to get to the work sites and the
time is not enough for them to finish the work. If the villagers are late the SPDC
soldiers swear or give the villagers punishment.
Making Fences For Pylons
Since 1980 the soldiers have forced the villagers to make fences for the pylons
every year.137 Before, the villagers were working on their fields and were happy
with their families everyday. However, because of the military regime members
who live in De Maw Soe Township, the people have to make fences for the pylons
every year and they spend a lot of their time doing so. Consequently they lose their
jobs, income, bamboo and they have no time to be happy with their family
anymore. SPDC soldiers live in their camp and give orders to village headmen to
build fences for the pylons. Sometime they demand money from the villagers
without explanation. They tell
the villagers to send bamboo
to them for building their
camps. They give orders to
the village headmen to make
fences for the pylons, but
nothing is for the villagers,
and they have to use their
own tools and food.
First they order villages
chairman like this, this time
your village has to make the
fence for pylon and dont be
so late, we give you authority
to supervise it. Then the
villages chairman gives us an
order again. Usually they send
orders by letter.138
I used to do my own fence
on May every year and when
I do my fence, I have to make
a fence for the pylon every
The SPDC forces villagers to make fences.
year.139 (Photo by Khon Nasa).
The villagers have to make fences for the pylons every year without benefit for
themselves and with no access to electricity in their house. If they do not do it the
SPDC soldiers will demand a fine and punish them. Subsequently they have to use
their own bamboo and have to do it on time. If they do not have bamboo they have
to buy it with their own money. Sometimes the villages who have no money for
buying the bamboo have to change their crops, including rice, to bamboo. Widows
in the village who cannot make the fence have to hire men who can build the fence
for them. Then they have to do light work or housework for the people who do the
fence for them.
When the SPDC soldiers force my village to build the fence for the pylon I have to
hire a man for making the fence on behalf of me every year and I have to give him
I have no bamboo in my garden therefore I have to buy bamboo for making the
fence every year and I have to pay 500 to 1,000 kyat for each bamboo. Right now
I can still buy it, but I think not so long from now in my village will be gone. If the
bamboo is gone, next time where can I get it and how can I make more fences for
the pylon? No one will be able to make more fences in my village.141
The SPDC soldiers live comfortably in their camp and they give orders to villagers
to take responsibility for the pylons. The villagers cannot follow their own meth-
ods; they have to follow as they are ordered. If the villagers do not respect their
orders they torture and punish them or they have to build a new fence again.
They give orders to us to have to build two layers of fences for each pylon. They
must be 100 yards along and each fence must be 4 armspans apart.142
Sometimes, if Im not free to go in the working area I have to hire a man for mak-
ing the fence instead of me. I have to pay at least 2,500 kyat per day if the work is
finished. For a day it is no problem, but more than one I cant pay for it any-
The SPDC does not take responsibility for the pylons and uses forced labor from
the villages to protect the pylons. They give orders to villagers to work as their
slaves and each village has to make, a fence for each pylon every year. As a result
of the fact that the villagers have to make fences for around 100 pylons every year
bamboo, trees and other traditional plants are gone.
When my husbands health is not good I have to make the fence instead of my
husband. If I did not do it by myself I would have no money for the fine in my house,
so I have to cut down the bamboo and bring it by myself and I have to climb
mountain to get there. The place is quite far from my village and it is not easy for
women to cut dawn the bamboo and making fences for the pylons.144
The SPDC uses forced labor everywhere along the pylons area and other places
also face similar problems as De Maw Soe Township.
LIB 261 forced the villagers to rebuild fences around the pylon. Daw Paw Kler and
No Ko villages in northern Karenni State have to build them.145
Guarding Power Lines
The villagers face many problems
including guarding pylons day and
night. SPDC soldiers force the vil-
lagers to be on sentry duty along
the pylons area at night time with-
out any compensation for it. The
majority of poor local people and
widows are becoming poorer day
by day; they have no income in
their lives, no jobs and most of them
are day workers.
A number of the families only get
1,500 kyat for a day of work in the
rainy season. They have no job
and no income in summer. How
can they support their families?
There is not enough food, clothes,
Villagers must guard pylons day and night without benefit.
medicine or education. The work is (Photo by Khon Nasa).
not easy for them; they have to be in the farm from 7am to 5pm to get 1,500 kyat.
The authorities should take security, health care and food security as a priority for
the citizens. Instead of take responsibility for them, the authorities extort money,
demand forced labor and torture them.
During sentry duty the villagers face several systems of treatment from the SPDC
soldiers. They have to stay awake the whole night, so in the day time they cannot
work in their fields. They are poor families and they have no time for being on
sentry and they have no money. However unfortunate the citizens are, the au-
thorities do not care about their lives.
The SPDC ignores that the citizens are poor. Their aim is only to get money from
them and force the villagers to work. The widows in the villages have to hire men
for about 2,500 kyat to sentry the pylons. They have to hire them three or four
times per year. If they are not in the pylon area when the are supposed to be on
sentry duty, the SPDC soldiers will check and demand a fine from them or chicken
In 1988 my son was arrested by SPDC soldiers because my son was not free to be
a sentry duty for the pylon. When the soldiers check the around the pylons area at
night time, my son was not in the pylon area and the next day they found my son
and arrested him. Then I had to take 2 viss of chicken and went to the place where
they arrested my son. I apologized to them for my son and I gave them chicken,
then they allowed me bring my son back home.146
The SPDC do not care about the young people, they only want to get benefits for
Burmas cities. Many Karenni young people have to be on sentry duty every year.
The young people who have no fathers or brothers in their house have to be
sentries for the pylons at the night time from 6pm - 6am. The SPDC does not take
responsibility for the pylons and demands local people and forces them to do it.
In May 2006 I was 16 years old and one of my friends was 17 years old at that
time. We two have to sentry the pylon in the night time. The SPDC soldiers said the
situation was not good so they gave orders to village chairman to remind the
villagers to sentry the pylon and he told me to sentry the pylon at night and gave
me a time table. At that time my father was ill and my brother was not in the house.
Then I had to prepare my own food, water and blanket. At 5:30 I arrived at the
pylon area. Then I heard them shoot their gun and after a few minutes they
arrived at our sentry hut. A soldier came and asked me, What is your village
name? I answered him, My village name is xxxx village. At that time I was
very afraid of them.147
Impact on local peoples lives and animals
The villages have several problems from forced labor by SPDC soldiers. The SPDC
forces the local people to build camps, fences, roads, porter, clear the area, sentry
for the camps/pylons and to grow the castors plants. In addition landmines
exploded on villagers and the SPDC fines and tortures the people. The villagers
pigs, dogs, cows, and other animals have exploded landmines under the pylons so
those who own the pig or others have to give money to soldiers for the mines.
Before the SPDC soldiers plant about 40 landmines for each pylon.
In 2008, one SPDC soldier came and planted 4 landmines for each pylon. The
pylons are very close to my house, therefore I told them, Please dont plant
landmines around this area because I am very worried about my children, dog,
chickens and cow will explode it. Then I saw a child climb the pylon and three
children were playing with a bomb under the pylon. The bomb exploded and one
child lost 2 of his left fingers, another one lost 2 left toes. Im very worried for my
Because the SPDC landmines exploded many children got injured and animals
died and were lost. They demand fines from the villagers and people who own
pigs have to give money to the soldiers. Pigs are valued at 4,000 kyat, so owners
have to pay 4,000 kyat to the soldiers. Half of the pork must be for the soldiers or
major and they can punish the owner or demand a fine. The SPDC plants
landmines at all the pylon areas, not only in De Maw Soe Township but also in
other township and places.
On December 20, 2007, eight villagers were injured by SPDC landmines that ex-
ploded near the pylon.149
Children who explode SPDC landmines have to get medical treatment on their
own and give fines to the SPDC. The villagers have to find their own money to
treat their children, so they are continually facing family problems in their houses.
Impact On Animals
I saw a pig exploded bomb under the pylon before. The house of the pigs owner
is very close to the pylon at a village called xxxx village. The SPDC soldiers said,
Whoever owns that pig must pay me 4,000 kyat for value of my bomb. He spoke
Because the SPDC plants landmines under and along the pylons area, several of
the villagers animals and property has been destroyed. In addition the local
people have to give money for the mines. The Karenni local people are very close
with their animals; cows give them condensed milk, bulls work in their fields and
give them crops, buffalos give them natural fertilizers and the pigs give them
income. However they are suffering by SPDC landmines, and the SPDC soldiers
ignore them. They not only lose their animals but are also fined by the SPDC every
SPDC landmines kill many local animals. (Photo by Khon Nasa).
My uncles cow entered the pylon area and exploded the SPDC landmine, there-
fore he lost his cow and in addition he had to give a fine to the SPDC soldiers.151
On 12 January 2008, on the Shan and Kayah state border in the area of Loikaw
Township, Kou Thar village tract, a cow exploded a landmine under a pylon, so
the owner had to go to the soldiers office everyday, then the SPDC soldiers de-
mand a fine from him. He said I have lost my cow already and I also have to give
a fine to SPDC soldiers. He had to spend his time and job as well.152
Impact On Livelihoods
Before the majority of the Karenni villagers were very closely related with their
environment and they got everything from the forest and soil. The bamboo was
especially helpful for Karenni local people. Most of their houses are constructed by
bamboo and bamboo is their life. Bamboo is one kind of primary food for Karenni
people. The Karenni people get mushrooms, bamboo insects, herbs and wildlife
from the bamboo forest.
Right now the bamboo is used to construct the camps, fences and other construc-
tion for the SPDC. As a result their bamboo forests are gone and they cannot find
food easily. It is a worry for their new generations.
Then Karenni local people were getting enough food from their farm land. For the
reason that the Burmas cities electric power line is passing though their village
and land all of their things were destroyed and their future lives were lost. Instead
of getting any supplies from the authorities the local people have lost their things.
Subsequent to the electric power line passing though the local peoples lands and
forests consequently they have lost their livelihood; they cannot find their liveli-
hood from farms anymore. After that they have to cut dawn their trees and
bamboos for making fences for the pylons every day. The local people were very
dependent on natural plants but now they are in worried about food security. The
Karenni local people have to send their bamboo for several years for the military
soldiers profit. All the bamboo is gone and the wood is also gone for the military
camps. Villagers also cannot get bamboo anymore. They have to buy bamboo and
wood with their own money for the militarys profit every year and they have lost
their livelihood. If people want to construct a house or other things it is expensive.
I had to pay 500 kyat for each bamboo before. But right now I have to pay
1,000 kyat for each bamboo and I have to buy three or four bamboo each
year. The SPDC think I could not get any more because the bamboo in this
area is gone and Im worried for my children because we have no bamboo to
build our houses and things and also food.153
The Law Pi Ta hydroelectric-
ity project is the first and big-
gest in Burma. The hydro-
electricity project was fin-
ished over 40 years go. How-
ever it has not been a good
thing for the local people and
they are still facing problems.
Before the local people did
not face any problems in
their homeland and they
could live without electric-
ity in their houses. They
The tubers from the bamboo forest. (Photo by Khon Nasa). could support their families
without electricity. Burmas
military regimes development has impacted Karenni local people. Burmas
cities want to get everything from the Karenni villagers and starting from the
Mobye dam site and from guarding the pylon. The Karenni villagers have given
their time and labor on the dam site. The water covered their fields and land. They
could not do more with their fields and lost their income and finally they have no
access to electricity. Before the Karenni local people used to get income from their
lands, but later with the hydroelectricity project they have no property to plant
crops and there is no way to get money for them.
For the benefit for Burmas cities the electricity pylons have caused increasing
forced labor in De Maw Soe Township. The SPDC is a member of the International
Labor Organization Convention (ILO). They are ignoring the ILO and continue to
use forced labor from the local people. The majority of Karenni local people are
still facing various kind of forced labor as a result of SPDC soldiers.
The SPDC soldiers force the villagers to build fences for the pylons every year.
The villagers have to bring their own bamboo, food and tools for making fences. If
a villager is absent or does not obey their order they are tortured or ordered to pay
a fine. Whats more the villagers have to sentry the pylons at night and day time.
They force the villagers to clear around the pylons.
The villagers are facing discrimination, limited access to education, poor health
care, and no access to electricity ongoing as a result of the military regime. The
SPDC soldiers dont care about the villagers health, food, elderly people, preg-
nant women and young people; they want only to follow their order and said an
order is an order. In addition the villagers do not know how long these problems
will be ongoing.
To the State Peace and Development Council
Immediately remove military camps from the local community.
Give opportunities to the local people to improve their living standard.
Immediately stop forced labor inside Burma.
No more landmines on local land.
Stop the action on local people.
Stop corruption on local villagers.
Do not force the villagers to sentry and make fences for the pylons or camps.
Accept the ILOs request to stop forced labor and respect human rights.
Do not force the local people without their agreement.
Respect the farmers voices.
To the NGOs
Put more pressure on the Burmese military regime to stop force labor in local
Pressure the SPDC to ratify the ICCPR or ICESCR.
Pressure the SPDC to practice democracy.
To Neighboring Countries
Dont provide weapons to the SPDC.
Pressure the SPDC to change their policies.
Keep up pressure on the SPDC to change their action toward local people.
To Ceasefire Groups
Unite with each other and find good ways for villagers.
The Impact of Land Confiscation on the Palaung People
in Namkham & Mantong Townships, Northern Shan State,
By Mai Naw Jar
Map of the Palaung area in Mantong & Namkham Townships
In 2005 the SPDC began putting pressure on various ceasefire groups in Burmas
Northern Shan State to surrender their arms. The Palaung State Liberation Army
(PSLA), one of the resistance groups in Northern Shan State was very weak. They
did not have the ability to continue to respond to the SPDCs military offenses and
they also had to consider the well- being of the Palaung civilians. Therefore, on 21
April 2005, the PSLA handed over their arms to the SPDC. Since that time the
entire Palaung area has been under SPDC control.
As a result of the ceasefire, the Burmese Army Light Infantry Battalions (LIB) 130
and 144 created bases in the Mantong and Namkham townships of Northern Shan
State Palaung area. The arrival of the military troops has meant that thousands of
acres of farmland have been illegally confiscated by the military. The local people
whose land has been confiscated have not been given any compensation and they
do not have the opportunity to take legal actions against the army for their losses.
As a result, many local Palaung people who lost their land have gone to China to
seek employment. Those Palaung who stay in the villages and towns have become
landless and jobless. The land confiscation is destroying their livelihood and
causing insecurity for the Palaung people in Shan State.
Throughout the ceasefire period, the Burmese military has been committing hu-
man rights abuses against Palaung civilians. Villagers are conscripted and used for
forced labor, their lands are confiscated without compensation and used for
military barracks and business projects, and the Burmese military troops extort
funds, food and property from local people with impunity.
Data in this report was collected by interviewing victims of the Burmese militarys
land confiscation practices who are from Northern Shan State and have fled to the
China-Burma border area. This paper is presented in five parts: part one examines
the confiscation of fields and tea plantation and the expansion of military camps.
Part two examines land that has been confiscated for the building of military
departments. Part three looks at fields and forests that have been confiscated for a
metal mining project. Part four explores other human rights abuses, force labor
practices and the confiscation of homes for building schools. And finally, Part five
examines the effect of land confiscation on the lives and livelihoods of the Palaung
people, including the impact on food, property, culture and traditional medicine.
The Palaung people are one of the indigenous nationalities of the multi-national
country that is the Union of Burma. They reside in Shan State. The Palaung people
have a long history and a strong sense of their unique identity. They have their
own language and literature, a distinctive traditional culture, their own territory
and a self-sufficient economy. The Palaung are predominantly Buddhist with less
then ten percent of the population being animist and Christians.
There are about one million Palaung people, and most live in the mountains of
northwestern Shan State. However, large numbers also live in towns throughout
southern and eastern Shan State. The customary lands of the Palaung people have
the richest ruby and sapphire mines in the world, including the famous Mogok
mine area, which was cut out of Shan State and made a part of Sagaing Division by
the Burmese dictatorship. There are also many kinds of minerals in the Palaung
lands including silver, zinc and gold and aluminum.
The Palaung are famous in Burma for the high quality tea that is grown in their
highland farms. They also grow a variety of temperate climate fruit crops such as
apples, plums, avocados and pears, which are highly valued in the lowland area
and provide their livelihood. Unfortunately, the Palaung people have not been
able to live on and tend to their lands in peace.154
The main cause of land confiscation has been the expansion of Burmese military
camps in Palaung areas since 2000. Due to the militarys increased presence with
the arrival of LIB 130 and 144, land confiscation and other human rights abuses
have increased in Palaung areas. Between 2000 and 2007, the army confiscated
land from villagers in Mantong and Namkham Townships. The confiscated land
has been used to construct army camps and also to support the armys livelihood.
Local villagers have not received any compensation for the land confiscated by the
army. Furthermore, after their land is confiscated, villagers are forced to work on
their own land for the Burmese Army without compensation. The military regime
has attempted to justify these abuses by citing the need for development but has
continued to force the villagers to plant castor nut, reconstruct roads and work on
other SPDC projects that only meet the SPDCs needs.
43rd Anniversary of the Ta ang (Palaung) National Revolution Day, page 50.
We cant tell them anything, we dont have land titles and the military said the
land was not legal land and no one owns it, so they can seize it and it is owned by
the military regime.155
Expansion of Military Camps
LIB 130 soldiers forcibly confiscated 73 acres of land from the Palaung people
between 2000 and 2007 as ordered by the commander Tiha Thura Thin Aung
Myint Oo. The reason they did this was to build new military camps on the
mountain between Mantong, Moemaik and the Namthu main road.
The military gave orders to every village in Mantong Township that one villager
per house must build the military camps and the commanders houses on the land.
There is not only one commander in the camps, and if the senior commander
wants to build his house, the other
commanders will want one also.
Since the military came, there is no
free place or wild land left. The land
was owned by the old Palaung
people since the old village named
Youe Kor was there. The Palaung
people plant tea on the land to get
income for their livelihood. Now
some of the villagers have lost their
land and cant complain to the mili-
A confiscated farm in Mantong Township, Palaung area. tary at all.
(Photo by Mai Naw Jar).
In 2000-2002 while Khin Maung Shwe, commander of LIB 130, was there they
forced the farmers to work in the fields they had already confiscated by that time.
Because the Palaung State Liberation Army didnt surrender their arms to them at
that time. But the end of June in 2002 the deputy battalion commander Thi Maung
Win forcibly confiscated over 23 acres of tea land. They declared that land was
owned by the military regimes and did not give enough compensation to the land
owners. Since 2003 the commander Thin Maung win gas controlled the LIB 130
and uses the farm and tea plant for his livelihood.
They said and threaten us although we didnt give all value amount of your
land its okay. We can do like this because this is order by the military regimes.156
On 14th March 2007 ordered by the Thin Maung Win, commander of the LIB 130,
the military confiscated the land of people who didnt have land titles. The
military went every house in the village to investigate and accused the villagers of
whatever they liked.
The military threatened the villagers and told them they had to accept the land
titles issued by the military regime claiming the militarys ownership of the land.
The military easily seized the land. The commander not only ordered the land
confiscated but also forced the truck owners in the township to carry stone, sand,
brick, cement and other materials needed to build the military camps. They didnt
pay the truck owners anything.
The military also threatened the brick sellers that they could not sell to other
markets if they did not sell their supplies to the military for a low price. Shopkeep-
ers in the towns also had to obtain a permit before they could sell. When the
shopkeepers sell to the military, the price is low because the military will not pay
the full price.
Local villagers are forced to build both the military camps and the commanders
houses. When they build the commanders houses they use teak, which is gathered
in the forest and owned by the villagers. The commander cooperates with Chinese
people to trade large quantities of illegal teak from the forest without any payment
or compensation to the villagers.
We are very poor. The tea plantations are not owned by us. We have to rent tea
plantations from other people to provide for our livelihood. When the military came
to confiscate the land, my wife had high blood pressure and she was fading [in
and out of consciousness]. If we requested compensation, the military would say
If we want to repay, we will pay. Dont come to request it from us. This is not your
land, dont say anything. We can do anything that we like. 157
Land confiscation for the projects of LIB 130 in Mantong, Namkham Township,
caused 17 families to lose their lands and plantations. Tea plantations used to
cover the land which had a value of 20 million kyat between 2000- 2007.
Military Service & Police Department Buildings
On 13th May 2007, by the order of Commander Thin Maung Win based in
Mantong Township in Northern Shan State, land was forcibly confiscated from the
local people to build the Burmese military department in Mantong Township.
When the police groups came to meet the landowner before confiscating the land,
they said to them, We will give a higher price for your land than before and we
will also find new land for all of you. Its not like we force you all to relocate from
your land. This was ordered by the central government. In the end, they forced
the villagers to move from their homelands and didnt pay any compensation.
Before they confiscated the land they came to take the land tax from us. They
said, If you want to stay on the land, you must pay a tax. We will not seize your
land. We had to pay 20,000 kyat. But two
days ago they confiscated the land. My
wife said to them, The land is my
grandparents legacy, and we kept the
land for our sons to use in the future. They
threaten us, If you speak like this we will
not pay compensation for your land. They
asked, Where is your land title? We had
to move from our homeland on 16th May,
2007. We also didnt get any cash for the
Built-on land confiscated from local people.
(Photo by Mai Naw Jar).
land from them until now. 158
The landowners did not get any of the compensation that the military promised. If
the villagers went to request their money, the military said, Dont request the
money and dont talk about your land. Its not a concern for us. The military used
to give the reason that if people did not have a land title document, then the land
was owned by the regime.
We just have two acres of land to plant rice that provides our food. Now we have
to do daily wage work for our livelihood. We only get 1,000 thousand kyat per day,
its not enough to provide food for the whole family. As the result, I have to send my
two sons to live in the monastery because I cannot support them to go to school.159
The confiscation of peoples homes, fields and other land such as their tea planta-
tions also happened in other townships. Villagers from four villages in Namkham
Township also lost their land. The landowners not only lost their properties, but
also were forced to work on their lands for the army without being paid anything.
These landowners incomes mainly depended on how much rice they produced
and on tea from the land.
We didnt have any faults in the township. We stayed there since our grandpar-
ents. We dont know why they kick us out from our homeland. There was no
reason and we didnt get any compensation from them. Now we are living in a
small hut in the forest. We had to find some fruit and bamboo in the forest for our
food before we got jobs. 160
Not only the local military battalions, but the local police also confiscated several
acres of land from local Palaung villagers in Mantong Township. During 2007, as
ordered by the police officer U Aung Kyi based in Mantong Township, three
families had their land confiscated without pay or other compensation. They
forced the landowners to build a Burmese police department office on the land.
The three soldiers came to our houses and at first they asked, Where are your
land titles and what kind of evidence do you have that says its your land? If
nobody has a land of title, then nobody is a landlord. If no one has a land title, that
land will be confiscated by the government. Do you know the government will
build a military department around this area? So you have to move and build new
houses at another place. We
will help you to carry your
things and will give compen-
sation for the value of your
land and houses. On 21 st
May 2007 we had to move
from our homeland to near
the forest. When we moved
they helped us to bring our
things, but we didnt get any
compensation from them
After people were moved from homelands by the military.
(Photo by MNJ).
From the middle of 2006 to now the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)
and the Kachin Democratic Army (KDA) have cooperated together to mine metal
in Northern Shan State in the Palaung area.
The land is owed by the grand-
parents of the Palaung people and
not owned by the military regimes.
When the State Law and Order
Restoration Council (SLORC) con-
trolled the country, they forced the
local Palaung people to give the
land and say it is owned by the
government. After the SLORC be-
came the SPDC, they forced the
Palaung State Liberation Army to
surrender and controlled wher-
ever they wanted in the Palaung
Mining project using land confiscated from local people. area and imposed a lot of human
(Photo by Mai Naw Jar).
rights abuses on the people.
After the military regime abused the human rights of the Palaung people, they
compensated for it by giving the land as a concession to the Palaung State Libertar-
ian Army (PSLA). The PSLA grew tea and other vegetables on the land. Now the
SPDC and KDA cooperate together to mine the metal on the land. They do not
negotiate with the PSLA at that time, but only confiscated the land to mine the
According to one of the PSLA leader, This is a big case of the human rights abuses,
unfair, nobody said in the law the government and the people could cooperate
with to deep the such as mining on the own by people land. This is they mean; the
Palaung people didnt have land own by them.
When the SPDC and KDA started to mine the metal they forced the Palaung
leaders to write a letter about the metal mining land and say it is owned by the
military regime. The leaders didnt get any compensation from the government
and the fields around the area were destroyed. Many farmers became jobless and
could not provide food for their livelihood.
They established the Kway Ka Ba Ma Kyaw Company there and will continue to
mine the metal until 2010. The manager is an ethnic Kachin and the company is
owned by the KDA. This was done by SPDC General Soe Win, the former #3 in the
SPDC, before he died.
According to one of the Palaung leaders, If we look at it in a political way, this is
not only about the SPDC getting half the profits from the company, but also part of
their plan to create misunderstandings between the ethnic peoples. 162
List of officers from LIB 130 who confiscated land from the local people be-
tween 2000 and 2007163:
1. Deputy Commander Tin Maung Win
2. Deputy Commander Sor Tun
3. Commander Nay Myo Win (Adjutant general)
4. Commander Nyi Nyi Min
5. Commander Min Thu Yain Tun
6. Commander Win Tun
7. Commander Tor Tor Tun (Sergeant)
8. Commander Sai Maung Myint
9. Commander Myo Myint Aung
10. Commander Win Myint Ning
11. Commander Win Zaw Hen
Land confiscated in Mantong and Namkham Townships from local villagers:
Acres seized Village Confiscator Reason
70 acres of tea Mankan, LIB 130 Military camp
plantations Lwykan and and fields
11 acres of Yourtit LIB 130 Military
94 acres of forest Hoenar and SPDC and KDA Metal mining
and farms Sighkin project
The SPDC not only confiscated the land from the local people, but also forced the
landowners to build their military camps without pay or any compensation. So
far, the military has built many roads by confiscating land from local villagers.
When the military built the Mantong to Namthu road, many acres of private
properties including houses, plantations, and farmland owned by Palaung villag-
ers in Mantong township area were confiscated.
The villagers from Mantong Township were enslaved for force labor in road
construction year after year under the decree of Thin Maung Win, commander of
Battalion 130, Man Tong Township, Northern Shan State. From November to
December 2007, one resident from every household in three villages was forced to
work every day on the road from Mantong to Namkham Township.
The military forced us to repair the road by saying that it was for developing the
region. The Palaung people finished it by themselves. Me and about 300 laborers
were forced at that time. There was no construction machinery to do it, only the
villagers, taking their traditional mattocks and tools. We had to labor until the big
trucks could pass down the road for at least one month. 164
- Former PSLA soldier who asked not to be named.
Road construction by villagers. (Photo by Mai Naw Jar).
Families in three villages were forced to give their homes to the military for the
construction of a government school between 2005 and 2007. The three families
were forcibly moved without any compensation from the government by General
Htut Winn from Man Tong based Battalion 130.
The threat from the military said, The families would have to pay xxxx kyat each
if they didnt move by the specified time. My familys still facing extreme difficulty.
I dont know where I can find a place for my family. The government still has not
built the school yet until now. If we want to build our houses in our specified place,
they threatened us. We still have to be afraid of them.165
Impact of Land Confiscation
Most of the Palaung people depend on farming and traditional tea plantations for
their livelihood. They can grow tea, rice and beans on their land during the three
seasons of the year. Tea plantations are very important for them because their
incomes are mostly from tea. After planting the tea seeds, they grow for three
years, and then it can be used and sold
for income. In the summer, they pick
the tea leaves and other products such
as coffee from those lands. The tea
leaves are dried before using or selling.
They also grow a variety of temperate
climate fruit crops such as apples,
plums, avocados and pears, which are
highly valued in the lowland areas to
provide their livelihood. Unfortunately,
the Palaung people have not been able Tea plantation. (Photo by MNJ).
to live and tend their lands in peace.
After the PSLA surrender their arms to the SPDC. The Burmese troops entered the
Palaung area and confiscated hundreds of fields and tea plantations from the local
people in order to build their camps and to provide incomes for themselves.
Generally, the heads of families, men or women, seek to earn money to feed their
whole family. There are some families whose lands were confiscated and who
depended on those lands, which could no longer support their children to attend
I was so very sad that I couldnt provide
enough food for my grandparent after my
land was confiscated by them. I also cant
support my children to attend school166
Ninety percents of local Palaung people rely
on their tea plantations and fields and shift-
ing cultivation for their livelihoods, so it is
not easy for them to find another way to
make a living. After land confiscation,
After his land was confiscated, this
unemployed man was displaced and had to Palaung farmers and the civilians in the
seek work. (Photo by MNJ). surrounding areas suffer seriously.
The government promised the landowners, When we are mining around your
fields, you can do your farming. If there is a landslide on your field we will pay the
amount of compensation for your land. However, when landslides have occurred
in the fields, the government did not say anything to the landowners and did not
pay any of the promised compensation.
We have twenty people in our family. We only have the field and a small tea
plantation to provide for our livelihood. Now the tea plantation is not enough to
provide food for us. We have a lot of debt, we are insolvent. We have to be alone
from other families and work day to day to support our family. 167
The landowners not only sufferer due to their lost land, there are also social
problems in their families. Some farmers or growers spend their life-time savings
to establish a plantation without any consideration to do any other things. They do
not have experience to get other jobs so it is very difficult for them to stand up for
their lives after the military confiscated their land. When the SPDC takes their land
they become jobless and do not have any skills to do anything else.
I am so sad until now because after they confiscated our field my wife died
three days later because she had high pressure blood at that time. I didnt get
any help and any compensation from them.168
There are not only orders by commander Thin Maung Win to confiscate the land;
there are also orders from other commanders. For example, if the landowners
went to request any compensation, the battalion commander would say, We
dont know who you agreed with to get your money. We cant pay. You can go to
take your money from another commander.
The local people whose land was confiscated by the Burmese military only have
tea plantations and farms to provide for their livelihood. The main source of
income for the Palaung people are the tea plantations. The Burmese military
entered the Palaung area and confiscated hundreds of acres of land from the
innocent people and forced the villagers to build their military camps without
paying any compensation. The landowners lost about twenty million kyat in
income from their tea plantations and fields.
Mining site on land confiscated from villagers. (Photo by MNJ).
The landowners cannot do anything after the military regime confiscated their
land and it is very difficult to find other jobs to provide for their livelihood.
Furthermore it is difficult to support their children to attend school. Although
some farmers are able to get some compensation from the military, the amount is
much lower than they lost. As a result, some farmers sons had to leave for China
to seek employment. Some do not have jobs and have become drugs users in the
towns. Under the military dictatorship, there are no property rights. The civilians
have no rights for the ownership of their lands. The government can confiscate
land and property whenever it wants.
After the military confiscated the fields and plantations, the local villagers need to
find new cultivable lands to farm or to start new plantations because farming and
tea plantation are, for them, the only way to make a living. Since they spend most
of their lives as traditional farmers and working tea plantations, it is almost
impossible for them to get a job other than without professional training.
It is very difficult for the local villagers to get a
different job to provide for their livelihood.
Although some villagers have new land, it is
not easy for them to farm. They cannot culti-
vate the seeds as before on their old land. There
are some families whose lands were confiscated
and who depended on those lands, which could
no longer provide food for their children or
Without the land they cannot grow food to eat
After his land was confiscated, he was
displaced and had to seek work. (Photo
themselves, also that if the land is confiscated
by MNJ). they cannot grow things like tea to sell and get
money to buy food to eat
We ran ranch to provide food for our family on the land, planted paddy, crops
and vegetable to sale the market. Now we are losing that entire plantation without
any compensation. All of my 32 chicken and 7 pigs died after confiscated the
land. Also my children cant attend school because I didnt have any income to
support my children to go to school 169
Culture & Traditional Medicine
The tea plantations and fields are one of the Palaung peoples traditional liveli-
hoods and it was inherited from their grandparents. They believe in their culture
that they have to provide land for their sons and provide gold for the daughters
when they get married. The land is the most important inheritance for their
children. In particular, he inheritance of the tea plantation land is related to a
complicated belief system of ancestral spirits called the grandparent spirits.
I have many children. In our culture we need to provide a legacy for our children.
I got these tea plantations from my parents. I was so sad that I had to lose this
legacy of my grandparents. After that our families became worse and worse.170
Some materials for traditional clothing, dresses, food and medicine are from those
lands. They believed that medicinal natural herbal from the forest are better than
the medicine from other products and use those medicinal plants during their
entire life. The local villagers can easily get traditional medicine on their land.
Landowners lost over 96 acres of land and millions of kyat in fields and planta-
tions on 13th May 2007 as a result of land confiscation by the metal mining project.
Many people lost their jobs because their employment was based on that land and
the fields. The people lost not only their land, but also all the money they have
invested in their plantations.
Besides the loss of property, the people also suffer from severe depression and
helplessness. In addition to the loss of property and jobs, the local people are also
suffering from different of kinds of human rights abuses by the local authority
because their lives are insecure.
Consequences of the Mine
The SPDC and KDA plan to build the Kway Ka Bar Ma Kyaw Company around
the mining site between Namkham, Namthu and the Mantong main road. They
will also order the soldiers to take security there. This is the main road for the local
villagers to go to work their fields. If the soldiers are really move there, the local
villagers will suffer human rights violation by them. They will build a soldiers
checkpoint and extort money from the local villagers. In addition, they will force
the villagers to be sentries at the checkpoint.
The extortion of money will increase more than before because the local villagers
have to bring their tea leaves, paddy, fruit and other vegetables by bullock, horse,
and some by truck from their fields to the village. They will pass the checkpoint
and the soldiers will check them and collect an illegal tax on their goods. Other
human rights violations such as forced labor, rape, torture and killing may also
increase during the mining project because the number of soldiers will increase.
The local villagers lives will be insecure in the future.
After the PSLA surrendered their arms on 21st April, 2005 to the SPDC, the SPDC
increased their control everywhere in Palaung area. Hundreds of acres of land
have been confiscated and twenty million kyat worth of plantations have been
destroyed or confiscated by the Burmese military between 2000 and 2008. There-
fore, hundreds of villagers lost their lands, plantations and jobs. Some of them had
to leave for China to seek employment. In addition to land confiscation, the
military forced the local villagers to work on those lands without any pay or
benefits as laborers.
The military also forced the local villagers to build military camps. Although the
landowners requested the amount of the compensation that they lost, the Burmese
military did not pay anything and ignored their appeals. Ninety percent of the
local villagers that were from Man Karn, Lwat Kan and Jel Koung village did not
have enough food for their daily living.
The villagers land has been confiscated and poor families have not received any
compensation. The poor local people are painfully struggling for their survival but
the families of the military regime are enjoying all the best in life.
There is no rule of law under the current military regime. The military not only
confiscated the land but also committed other human rights violations such as
forced labor and illegal taxation. Therefore, the international community and
other internal human rights organization need to stand up for the people who are
helpless in the ethnic areas.
Recommendations to the SPDC
Stop expansion of the military camps in the ethnic areas.
Give more assistance to people who have had to resettle.
Follow the obligations under the UNs declaration of human rights.
Stop land confiscations and other human rights abuses in Palaung areas.
Repay fair compensation to the farmers for their lost land.
Recommendation to the PSLA leaders and other Armed forces
Work more for the local people and stand with them.
In solidarity, defend and fight for the rights of local people.
International Principles on Political, Social and Economic Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Article 17: (a) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in
association with others; (b) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Article 11: The State Parties to the present Covenant recognize the rights of
everyone to and adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including
adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of
living conditions. The state parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the
realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of
international co-operation based on free consent.
These instances of land confiscation interfere with or directly violate a number of
internationally recognized rights, including the ICESCRs rights to livelihood, and
the International Covenant on Human Rights, which provides, including, that
local communities and individuals shall have full and complete sovereignty over
all their natural wealth and resources.171
Turning Treasure into Tears (2007) EarthRights International, page 34.
If you cut the tree it will be scarred forever:
Domestic Violence in Karenni Refugee Camp 1
I do not want to stay with my father anymore; without my father I will be happy. I
only want to stay with my mother because my father treats me unfairly, like: you
are the elder girl in this house so you have to work hard. If I cant do it he beats and
swears at me in front of my friends using bad words. This year I failed the exam
because I couldnt concentrate on studying, and when he drinks and is intoxi-
cated it disturbs my study. I cant read and dont have a chance to do my home-
work because its really noisy. 172
- Ten year old girl, Karenni Refugee Camp 1
There are many definitions of domestic violence used in statute and practice across
the Department of Human Services. All include forms of physical injury/abuse,
sexual abuse, intimidation, verbal abuse and emotional abuse or threats of such.
These tactics are used by one adult to coerce or control another. When these acts
are committed by a spouse, ex-spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, ex-boyfriend/girl-
friend, or date, they are referred to as intimate partner violence. Intimate partner
violence and domestic violence are present in all cultures, ages, socio-economic
classes, and communities of faith173 around the world: so of course it happens in
Karenni Refugee Camp 1, recognized by the United Nations High Commission for
Refugees (UNHCR) in 1993, is located in Mae Hong Son province, close to the
Thai-Burma Boarder. Around 18,000 Karenni refugees live there. The original
camp was established on the Karenni side of the border in 1989. It was moved into
Thailand in August 1993 but was forced back across the border in July 1995
following the breakdown of the Karenni ceasefire with Rangoon. Originally, the
refugees were forced out of their own homes by the SPDC (State Peace and
Development Council, the military regime governing Burma) who attacked their
From the TBBC (Thai-Burma Border Consortium)
Housing structures in Karenni Refugee Camp 1. (Photo by Tyardu).
This report expresses the feelings of the victims of domestic violence in the camp
and examines the impact on their children. Both the victims and abusers want this
report to communicate their views to the outside world. Living in the camp is like
living in prison; they cannot go in or out. They have been there for almost 16 years
without being able to express themselves. Some of the victims said nobody comes
to ask them what happened to them ... they want other people to know how their
feelings hurt so much and they cant swallow them or tolerate them anymore. 174
This report puts forward that one root cause of domestic violence is living in the
adverse conditions of the Karenni refugee camp. The information is from 25
interviews with people from different levels, including victims of domestic vio-
lence, abusers and some Camp-Based Organization (CBO) leaders. This was diffi-
cult because the male camp leaders did not approve of the topic: it threatens them
and their social position of power. In fact, when conducting this research I was
threatened and told I had better, be careful175
Interview numbers 1 and 15, women victims.
Camp leader and staff member from MIP (Men Involved in Peace).
This report will proceed as follows: Chapter One is a summary of the issue.
Chapter Two examines why domestic violence occurs in the camp and defines
domestic violence in that context. This chapter also looks at specific examples of
what happens to the women, children and men and includes: sexual abuse, physi-
cal abuse and psychological abuse. Chapter Three explores the consequences for
women and children. Chapter Four outlines the legal and community responses
for the victims and perpetrators.
Karenni State is located in eastern Burma and is bordered to the north by Shan
State, to the east by Thailands Mae Hong Son province, to the south by Karen
State, and to the west by Mandalay Division.176 The capital city is Loikaw. Karenni
State is the smallest state in Burma. In the past, Karenni people were ruled by their
own princes until 4 January 1948, when Burma regained its independence from the
British. On 9 August 1948, Karenni State was invaded by the central governments
army and annexed into the union of Burma.
In 1957, pro-independence groups were already active in the area and formed the
Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) which was backed by the Karenni
army. The central government has been abusing human rights in Karenni State
ever since. Several waves of forced relocation by the Burmese regime have taken
place in the State. They have used different strategies for controlling the Karenni
During the first wave, the Burmese military seized state power for a second time,
in September 1988. The displaced gradually headed to the east across the Thai
border as refugees to the camps. In the second wave, the ruling Burmese regime
carried out a massive forced relocation program in the eastern and southern parts
of Karenni State. Two-thirds of the population in this area went into hiding and the
rest moved into relocation camps. By mid-1996 many internally displaced people
(IDP) entered the camps, doubling the population. The third wave, in October
1996, saw the regimes second forcible relocation of the Karenni people living in
the middle and southern part of the State. It was difficult for those people to reach
the camps. A lot of people went into hiding and a few people crossed the border
and entered the Karenni camps. During their trip, they were routinely attacked by
Burmese troops and some were arrested and forced to serve as military porters.
Green Voices of Youth, EarthRights School of Burma, EarthRights International, page 21.
One young girl was gang-raped by troops for a week. Some were starving, and
many were victims of forced labor, rape and forced marriage to Burmese soldiers.
These are the reasons why the Karenni sought refuge in Thailand. The first
Karenni refugees arrived in Mae Hong Son province in 1989 and year by year the
camp population has increased due to the entrenched civil conflict in Burma. The
current camp situation is very difficult and unstable because of the continually
increasing camp population.
Now Camp 1s population is over 18000 people, and around 3 percent of them
make the camp unstable and disturb the camp leaders management role. If one
stays in camp, there are less problems but if you go outside there are many
problems with the local authorities.
Domestic violence in Karenni Camp 1
Violence against women is a major health and human rights concern. Women can
be physically or mentally abused throughout their lifecycle, in infancy and during
adulthood or older age. Violence can affect their health consequences and create
In February 1996, a group of international experts convened by the World Health
Organization (WHO) agreed the definition adopted by United Nations General
Assembly provides a useful framework for the Organizations activities. In 1993
the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women defines it as any
act of gender-based violence that results in physical, sexual or mental harm or
suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary depriva-
tion of liberty whether occurring in public or in private life.177 These things
happen in the Karenni refugee camp.
Domestic violence occurs when a family member, partner or ex-partner attempts
to physically or psychologically dominate another. Domestic violence occurs in all
cultures, races, ethnicities, religions, sexes and classes, perpetrated by both men
and women, but most perpetrators are men.
www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/ (A group of international experts providing
safety recommendations for research on domestic violence against women).
Children become caught in the crossfire of domestic violence and suffer the full
consequences of a turbulent home life. Violence against children also involves
physical, psychological abuse, injury, neglect and sexual abuse. The perpetrators
may include both parents and other close family members; this violence also
happens to the children who live in the camp. Some of the children are abused by
their parents especially by their father including physical abuse, psychological
or emotional abuse, neglect and sexual abuse. There are different subcategories of
Domestic violence has different forms including physical violence, sexual abuse,
emotional abuse, intimidation and other threats of violence. Some of them can be
criminal such as hitting, pushing, shoving and stalking those are assault. Al-
though emotional and psychological abuse is not always criminal, they can lead to
criminal violence.178 These kinds of problems happen in the Karenni refugee
camps. On the Thai-Burma border there are nine refugee camps, including the
Karenni Refugee Camp. Among the nine refugee camps, the one with the Karenni
refugees is the worst because there are many problems such as domestic violence,
according to the camp justice leader.179
There are many causes of domestic violence in the camp. The camp is over-
crowded with people that have little income and with nothing to do. Most people
who live in the camp are
jobless because they are
isolated from the outside
and are not allowed to
go out and work. So they
keep quiet about what
they want to be and what
they want to do, then
sometimes cannot con-
trol their mind and be-
come aggressive to their
partner or children be-
cause they dont have
any way to express their
Camp housing: packed together and crowded with different ethnic
people with different cultures. (Photo by Tyardu).
Camp Justice leader.
The primary cause, however, is the abuse of alcohol and the resulting aggression
towards their family. Alcohol abuse is rife amongst the adult males, many of
whom used to be soldiers. Their lack of work leads them to feel unimportant.
Others are disabled and become drinkers. Most of them have been there for a long
time and dont have any way to earn money. They see a short term solution in
alcohol abuse. They even sell their familys rationed monthly yellow beans and
rice to fund their alcohol habits. They feel hopeless because they dont have an
opportunity to go back to Burma and are unlikely to be accepted for third country
resettlement. They comfort themselves with alcohol and release their feelings for
short periods of time to feel better.180 According to the some of the perpetrators of
domestic violence, using alcohol releases their feelings and pleases their mind.181
Cultural traditions make the men superior to their wives. When their wife argues
with them, often due to the stressful nature of life in the camp, the husbands get
angry and resort to violence. Many families are the result of forced marriages and
they do not love each other enough to deal with the difficult life in the camp. Stress
causes them to break their silence and express their feelings, despite the wishes of
their parents. They believe that situation is their fortune; they comfort themselves
like this although their husbands treat them badly. In the past, they did not believe
they had the right to stand up to their husbands, but now they know about their
rights and do not tolerate their husbands behavior as much anymore. They have
begun to explore their feelings. One of the victims explains her story:
My parents forced me to get engaged with this man when I was 10 years old. At
that time my period was not coming so my husband tried to have sex with me
every night but I ran away or avoided him. But my parents encouraged this man: if
you try you can sleep with her. So later I couldnt fight against him any more be-
cause he forced me to have sex after I had fallen asleep. I struggled but I couldnt,
he pulled my belt and destroyed my necklace. So the first time of my period came
and I got pregnant, but when I gave birth the baby was not alive for me ...182
This kind of problem is a consequence of an oppressive culture for women. The
Karenni society still has some people who believe and practice this culture. The
Karenni National Women Organization (KNWO) provides awareness training on
womens rights, human rights, child rights and domestic violence. As women
begin to know their rights, they no longer keep silent about abuse and break
Camp Based Organization (CBO) leader, Interview 29.
Interviews 12 and 13, a perpetrator.
tradition to request help from other people. Men feel their privileges disappear-
ing and want to blame the womens group. The KNWO provides training for both
men and women but most men are not interested and few come to listen. It
appears those men feel threatened and are afraid that their wives will emasculate
them. This causes many family disputes and can result in domestic violence.
There are many broken families in the camp. Infidelity can cause social problems
and violence at home. Some wives steal or sell themselves to supplement their
husbands inadequate income, often angering the men. Some disputes are caused
by the UN resettlement program; families are divided over whether to apply
Domestic violence is an example of the abuse of women common in the refugee
camps.183 In the Karenni Refugee Camp 1, some of the husbands beat their wives
and children. Many women suffer this abuse from their male partners, including
physical injury/abuse, sexual abuse, intimidation, verbal abuse and emotional
abuse or threats. Physical abuse includes pulling their hair, kicking their stomach
while they are pregnant, and regular beatings. Some women have broken hands,
fingers, teeth, and some have cuts and concussions. They carry these effects
In most of the cases there is verbal abuse and shaming. A few also are guilty of
violence against their husbands but it is mostly verbal abuse like lying about their
husband or sending their husband to jail without any real reason because they
want to divorce them. This situation results in some feeling depressed. There are
many different kinds of abuse women suffer from their male partner including
sexual abuse, physical abuse and psychological abuse or emotional abuse. Each of
them can be explained as follows:
Sexual abuse is any form of non-consensual physical contact. It includes rape,
molestation, or any sexual conduct with a person who lacks the mental capacity to
A collection of articles on domestic violence in Thailand, EarthRights International, p. 94.
http://www.preventelderabuse.org/elderabuse/physical.htm (National committee for the
Prevention of Elder Abuse).
Many interviewees complained that when they have sexual intercourse their
husbands treat them badly. Their husbands force them to have sex. This sometime
occurs in front of their children, under their house and in the toilets without
consent. Some husbands show their wives sex movies and orders her to do the
same as the actors; although she refuses she must. After they gave birth, when the
husband requests to have sex they are not interested and also their bodies are
There are many different types of sexual abuse including, behavior involving
penetration, fondling, violations of privacy, exposing children to adult sexuality
and exploitation.185 There are cases involving children in which the stepfather got
drunk and abused them, sometimes swearing and beating them. He often showed
them his penis - three or four times - and sometimes touched their body, they said.
(The two daughters are from a mother and one of her friends).186
Physical Abuse includes physical
force or violence that results in bodily
injury, pain, or impairment.187 Ac-
cording to the interviewees, their
husbands hurt their bodies in differ-
One woman said that when her hus-
band was angry with her he broke
one of her teeth and loosened an-
other. She couldnt eat for a month;
until now she cant eat hard food. At Abuse scars. (Photo by TD).
that time, she didnt know what hap-
pened to her - she suffered memory loss for a few hours. When she remembered
she could not speak about it, it hurt her too much, so her daughter came to explain
for her. Her mouth became swollen. Later camp security come to arrest him and
sent him to the jail. That was not the first time for her; he has done it many times to
her and to his children.188
Three young girls.
Another victim said her husband also treated her similarly, punching her in her
eyes and swelling them for three days.189
Another victim said her husband punched her head and pulled her hair. The first
time she forgave him. But, the next time, he did it to me again and shamed me in
front of many people. I went with my children to a relatives house and he
suddenly appeared and pulled me under the house and punched me repeatedly. I
dont know myself. The whole of my head and face were bloodied and my
memory was lost for one day and one night. I remember arriving at Mae Hong Son
hospital with my face swelled so much that I could not eat. I felt bitter towards him
and divorced him but he blamed me for this. The effects of this abuse still linger:
my mind is changed and I am always nervous. The Doctor said he caused perma-
nent damage behind my eyes by punching me in the temple.190 Another victim
said she her husband ripped out her hair and always beat her.191 A typical response
was as follows:
My husband said I own you so whatever I want you to do you have to do for me.
He said thats our culture: I bought you when you married me. Therefore, he is
always angry and aggressive to me. When he is drunk he beats me. He punched
my face so hard I could not eat and broke one of my fingers and now I cant wash
very well clothing and do other work. He always punches my head and including
my neck. When I got pregnant he kicked my pregnant belly, and I couldnt re-
member myself for a while. At that time my pregnancy was big.192
- Victim of violence against women in the camp.
That is the situation of physical violation of the women in the Karenni Refugee
Camps. Sometimes their children become victims because their father becomes
angry and starts beating, pulling, and throwing them and knocking their heads
together. It hurts their head, hand, arm, ear and other parts of their body. Accord-
ing to Interviewees 2, 4 and 5, the violence caused external bleeding.
Domestic violence is contrary to Thai law and international standards. For ex-
ample, under Thai law, Penal Code: Article 295 explains that Whoever has caused
serious harm or torture to the body or mind of the others shall be punished with
imprisonment of 2 years or fine of 4000 baht.193 Moreover, people should be
allowed to get divorced. Thai law allows for divorce with the consent of both
parties. If mutual agreement cannot be reached, the case must be taken to court.
Violence is one of the grounds for divorce.
According to Thai law, Article 295 is applicable to everyone who lives in Thailand,
but this does not work in our Karenni society. We do not have laws for domestic
violence, but have some articles such as, if someone hurts someone, they should
give a penalty or get a punishment; something like this. It is very weak and not
Psychological abuse is the willful infliction of mental or emotional anguish by
threat, humiliation, or other verbal or nonverbal conduct.194 The victims of women
who I interviewed were menaced by different kinds of action from their husbands.
Their husbands threatened them with guns and knives, and took other action like
making them afraid, acting like tigers or using necromancy. They made threats
against their relatives, like I will give one bullet to your father. Their husbands
stayed with other women and provided things to those women. Their husbands
made mortal threats like I will kill you and go to the jail. Some husbands accuse
them of being with other men, and said things like You are a prostitute, you are
selling yourself. Some husbands compared their wives with dogs, or said they
were stupid or naughty. A further example of psychological abuse is as follows:
I am deaf so he cant tell me what he wants but my daughter told me again. He
didn't consider me his wife and stayed with other women in front of me. When the
children are sick and have to sleep in the clinic women come to sleep with him.
This hurt me so much but he doesn't care. I told to him not to do this and informed
the camp leaders. He denied this behavior but was punished and sent to the jail.
He was angry with me and swore that I was now his enemy. He threatened
revenge saying, If you cut the tree it will be scarred forever. He will never
- Refugee Victim of Psychological Abuse.
Summary of Thai laws and international laws relating to violence against women; Summary
of Thai laws on violence against women, Handout 6, Domestic Violence, Migrant Assistance
Programme, Chiang Mai, Thailand, page 14.
This also happens to children. Many child interviewees said they hated and
feared their fathers due to domestic violence in the family. Some of them feel
ashamed and depressed. They do not want to go out with their friends. Some of
them are feeling upset with their mother for not stopping the violence. If the
violence is inflicted in front of their friends, some friends make jokes to them.
When I went to watch a movie, the actor pretended to be a drinker, so some of
my friends jested with and reproached me, they said he looks like your father. So
I was angry with my friend and quarreled with him.196
In these situations, parents also neglect to fulfill the needs and wishes of their
children; for example, not providing them with clothes, enough food, hygiene, or
Men also suffer from psychological abuse. Two male interviewees wives left them.
Although there was no sexual abuse or physical abuse, there were signs of psycho-
logical abuse. Neither of their wives discussed with them what they wanted to buy
or to do. Every month they incurred debt and the husbands had to pay. Both of
them faced requests from their wives for divorce. So although they did not want to
divorce they had to, because they did not want to upset their wife and children.197
One man said his wife always had much debt. At first she did not understand so he
tolerated her but she never finished. At the end of the month people came to
request her payment; he did not know what she had bought. She never explained
to him. He told her not to do that, but she did not listen to him. She shamed him
because of so much debt. She finally understood and apologized but felt unable to
change her behavior. So she felt ashamed of herself and requested of him that she
stay alone. She said the main thing was her happiness, so allow her a divorce. She
swore at him badly and compared him with a dog. This couple were from different
Policy in Other Countries
Other Countries have formulated policies to deal with domestic violence. Special
policies are necessary because domestic violence is a crime that takes place within
the family, between people who are emotionally and financially involved with
each other. First, policies must reflect the singular nature of domestic crime and
Interview 5, a young girl.
Interview 21, male victims.
must provide support for the victim and help the abuser. Secondly, policies must
take into account the cultural, economic and political realities.198 But little has been
done by the Thai authorities or camp leaders to address this problem.
Families that suffer domestic violence are looked down upon by the rest of society.
Children become victims and are reproached by their friends. These families do
not provide a nurturing environment for children and are unkind. The childrens
lives are affected; their work, health, and education suffer.
They cannot get divorced so they have to tolerate their partner. One of the victims
said the court did not allow for her to divorce so she has to suffer from her
husbands treatment forever. She requested a divorce and went to court but failed.
She cannot tolerate her husband anymore.199 This typical case is a huge problem
because although she lives with him she is not going to be happy in her family, so
it is causing social problems.
Some families are going
to divorce but this is
confusing for their chil-
dren who must then
choose between their
father and mother. The
camp justice system
shares custody but
some still feel it is un-
fair and become angry.
Then, the custodian
must struggle alone to
raise the children and
often cannot fulfill
childrens needs. The Struggling alone in poverty with two little children. (Photo by Tyardu).
result is distressed
Violence Against Women: Thailand Country Report 2000, Jackie Pollock for Friends of Women,
Cambodia, page 15.
Interview 16, women victims.
Consequences For Women
Some of the victims of domestic violence have divorced their husbands and are
restarting their life again. Some are lonely and have to take care of their children
alone. Some are having mental problems like always feeling afraid in their mind.
Some of them become unhealthy and cannot work very well because they are
concerned about their childrens future. Some of interviewees said they lost weight
because they have to think a lot and are struggling for their children alone. Some of
them are ignored or reproached by their community.200 The neighbors wives see
mistakes or blame and accuse them with their husband and fight with them.
One victim explained how it is dangerous for divorced woman to stay alone. After
her divorce she lived with her child in a different section of the camp. The
traditional culture looks down on divorced women. Some believe that a divorced
woman is nothing so they can do what they want to. A man came to her house at
1:34 am and threatened her with a knife, telling her, You must marry me. If you
dont I will kill you. Although she went to inform the community leaders, they
did not want to further damage the mans already fractured family.
The combination of violence by her husband and a stranger caused her to suffer
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It created deep psychological trauma for her; she
had never feel like this before, she said.201 This is a consequence of domestic
violence that women face in the camp: it makes them vulnerable to further abuses.
The consequences of do-
mestic violence can span
generations. The effects of
violent behavior tend to
stay with children long af-
ter they leave the child-
hood home. Boys exposed
to their parents domestic
violence are twice as likely
Study time with mother in WCC. (Photo by Tyardu).
to become abusive men as are
sons of non-violent parents. Fur-
thermore, girls who witness
their mothers being abused are
more likely to accept violence
in a marriage than girls from
Consequences for children in-
clude dropping out of school,
some are married early, and
some do not want to work on
their studies. They also have Safe house (WCC).
mental problems, do not want
to talk to their father and are bitter about them. Some feel upset with their mother
and get depressed. Most children who are treated badly themselves start to treat
others badly. Some are ashamed with their friends and do not want to go to school.
They become aggressive with their friends. Some delay their education because
they feel they must stay with their mother to protect her in case the father returns.
For some it is difficult to stay with their stepfather, especially for the girls. It can be
dangerous for them to live freely in their home. Some children are going to be very
cruel adults: they are anti-social because their parents set a bad example.
Women who are battered often go to extreme and courageous lengths to protect
their children from an abusive partner. Children growing up in a violent home can
suffer a terrifying and traumatic experience that can affect every aspect of their
life, growth and development.203
Community organization leaders such as section leader, camp security, camp
justice, camp administration, women activist group and legal assistance centers
take responsibility for victims of domestic violence. It depends on the situation:
they have different levels of responsibility for victims. Most cooperate with each
other. They inform on a step by step basis if the case is not satisfied at the lower
level. First the case goes to the section leader, and if not resolved, goes to the camp
www.unicef.org/sowc07/docs/sowc07 pane1 2 1.pdf
WCC new building. (Photos by TD).
security or committee and then to the camp justice. But if the case is big, they send
it to the legal assistance center. By Thai law, the procedure depends on what the
victim wants to do. NGOs such as the IRC-GBV program also provide awareness
about how to reduce domestic violence in the camp, and offer trainings.
According to Camp Security, they punish the perpetrator depending on the case.
They arrest the perpetrator within 24 hours and examine the problem; if they need
to take more time to check they can. Before releasing him he is warned and
commits not to repeat such behavior as drinking, swearing, keeping money from
the family, and disturbing the neighbors.
The provision of the womens safe house is problematic to the male leadership.
Most of the men leaders and perpetrators believe it encourages more problems.
They blame the womens groups that provide these services. The WCC managers
said they have expanded the new building but are concerned for womens safety.
Men who commit domestic violence are upset because women run to the WCC.
They argue that before the WCC building the problem was private and settled at
home. Instead now they must fact justice, meet with the section leader and write
recommendations in order for them to be allowed to call back their wife from the
WCC. Some even must got to criminal court.204
Interview 22, section leader.
The educators said they go around every section encourage and educated to them
to be exemplary in the society. The problem of domestic violence is happen all
over the world, not only in the camp so we want to improve like the other society
and provide awareness training for them. Although we have the camp justice the
people are dont understand law. When justice is done many are not satisfied with
the result. They have a plan to provide awareness training for the people but they
dont have the resources according to the leader of camp justice.205
The root causes of domestic violence in the camp are alcohol, joblessness, gam-
bling, ignorance, and infidelity. Most people are concerned about their future life -
they feel hopeless, have no guarantee of a good, long life, and worry about basic
subsistence. There are many different ethnicities in the camp, with various festi-
vals and cultural practices and behaviors.
Dispute Over the Definition of Violence
The word violence is controversial amongst the camp leadership and CBO lead-
ers. They have different views and different opinions about relations between men
and women. Most of the men CBO leaders dont like this word and want to change
this word. They argued with the Karenni National Women Organization who
works with women on
domestic violence issues
in the camp. Instead of
using the term violence
they prefer to use a term
like family problems be-
cause violence is a strong
word when translated
into Burmese. They dont
want to use it in the con-
text of Karenni refugee
society. Although most
understand this term, the
male leadership doesnt
use it officially. The
KNWO held a meeting with CBO leaders about the word violence.
KNWO called a meeting
to discuss with them.
Interview 10, Camp Justice.
KNWO is working closely with women who are suffering from domestic violence.
They support them by giving counseling, accompanying them to the clinic or to
the judicial office.206 They provide a temporary safe house for the victims of
women and their children. According to the WCC staff said that in 2006 the
reported domestic violence cases totaled 60 and in 2007 the total was 54 with 10 of
them repeat offenders. In total in 2007, 19 children stayed with the WCC. During
this year January to April the total of reported domestic violence cases were 11,
some of them were repetitive. 30 children are now with them.207
Domestic violence is one kind of human rights violation but many people in the
world see it as being only a family problem so they do not want to interfere.
People who live in the Karenni refugee camp also think like this so when one of the
families has this problem they dont want to interfere and come to help. Most
victims said that no body came to help them when their husband mistreated which
increased their suffering. The women are with husbands who treat them badly.
They have tolerated it for a long time but cannot continue to do so forever. 208
This research proved highly controversial in the camp and provoked resentment
from many quarters. Many disagreed with the project and the use of the correct
terminology domestic violence because it is taboo. The purpose of this report is
for more people to know about and find solutions for the crisis situation in the
camp; to weaken the taboo; and to raise the voices of the victims.
Domestic violence has various ramifications.209 The victims of violence and their
children are affected by the actions of the perpetrator. Living in the camp is very
difficult situation with few ways out. The result is domestic violence. Activists
must stand with the people who are weak or oppressed, in this case by their closest
partner. If not, the cycle of violence can continue for many generations. Domestic
violence can affect the whole society, destroying human dignity. Indeed, human
dignity plays an important role here. Long-term life in the Karenni refugee camps
is a major cause of domestic violence as it erodes the dignity of those forced to live
Womens Community Center staff.
Interviews 1,4. and 6.
To the camp committee:
To reduce making homemade alcohol inform by camp committee
To create job for the people in camp which relevant for them to do
To arrange for the people can stay in their country as soon as possible
To distribute camp rule and law and let the camp people know
To make stricter rules and give punishments to the offender
To Royal Thai Government:
To allow the camp people to go in and out in suitable way
To allow the outsider people enter to visit in the camp like foreigner people
To let the local people rule and control their people
To allow the camp people living as applicable to refugee right under the refugee
To protect and promote human rights for the refugee camp
To allow the refugee people access to movement
To provide awareness training about basic law to the people
To create job like income generation for the people and reduce jobless problem
To let the international people know the real situation in the camp
To the abusers:
To look inside themselves and try to understand the causes of their behavior so it
is not repeated.
To the parents:
To understand that their treatment of their children will affect those children in
every way, in the present and the future, and will affect future generations of their
Impact of Drugs on Palaung Children
in Namkham Township, Northern Shan State
By Lway Poe Taung
Map of Paluang Area
This report is based on the SPDC (State Peace Development Council) policy of
allowing local people to cultivate opium from 1997 to 2001 in Northern Shan State,
Burma following the SPDCs ceasefire agreement signed with the Palaung State
Liberation Army (PSLA) in 1991210. Many Palaung people in Shan State grow
opium and as a result many have become addicted to the drug. The use of opium
by men has had a particularly negative impact on Palaung children and women,
including in the Nakham area. Despite the fact that the Myanmar strategic
programme framework claimed that heroin production could be reduced 50% in
the Northern Shan State, including Muse, Lashio and Kutkai by 2005,211 the num-
ber of Palaung people who use heroin is still increasing in Palaung areas causing
great suffering for women and children and entire communities.
This report puts forward the argument that the SPDC is using drugs as a weapon
of war to control Palaung people and that it is having a negative impact on
Palaung children. The SPDC allows the ethnic Chinese in Burma and ceasefire
groups to cultivate opium and takes taxes from drug traffickers and opium farm
owners in Palaung land. The police come to destroy the opium every year but they
just collect bribes from farm owners and destroy a field of rather of poor yield that
cant give taxation. Most Palaung people are poor in Northern Shan State because
tea prices dropped in 1962 when the SPDC started its war on the ethnic people and
then took control of the tea economy and because after the ceasefire 1991, the
SPDC continued to exert control though building a tea factory and therefore
dominating private industry. Poor people can grow poppy fields, however if they
do not have money to pay taxes to the police, their fields will be destroyed and
they will have to go work in the Chinese poppy fields in the Palaung areas in
Northern Shan State. When working people become tired, field owners give them
opium and therefore many Palaung people have become addicted. Palaung drug
addicts are not interested in politics or fighting and therefore it is easy for the
SPDC to control the Palaung lands by allowing and even promoting drug use. This
report will examine the effect of this SPDC policy on local Palaung communities in
Northern Shan State.
Most of the information in this report comes from two Palaung villages in the areas
of Namkham Township in Palaung land that is also called Special Region 7,
www.unodc.org/pdf/myanmar/myanmar strategic programme framework.pdf
Northern Shan State and May 2008. Twenty-five people were interviewed of
which 18 were from the two Palaung villages and seven were from the Palaung
Womens Organization (PWO) office based in Mea Sot, Thailand. The subjects of
the interviews were interns at the PWO, women who are the wives of drug
addicts, children, headmen, nursery teachers, youth, field owners, drug addicts
and drug dealers.
This report is laid out as follows; it begins with a background of the Palaung
people and then the history of drugs in Northern Shan State. Part one explains that
the reason people become drug addicts in Palaung areas is because of depression,
work in poppy fields, and peer pressure. Part two examines the impacts of addic-
tion on families including domestic violence; the death of parents; divorce and the
abandonment of children. Part three shows the impact on women such as disease,
struggle in the family and depression because of their husbands drug use. Part
four looks at the effect of an addicted father on children and how a fathers
addiction often means that his children must work the fields, do domestic work or
become migrant workers. Children are even sold by their parents. Part five exam-
ines the economic and social impacts of addiction on local people. It explores
issues of childrens health, the lack of medical care and the lack of food for
children. It also looks at education; Addicts children often cannot go to school as
there is no money for school fees, and addicted parents do not encourage educa-
tion. Part six looks at the social impact of addiction on the community. It finds that
people are hopeless, get married early, feel isolated, have anti-social behavior and
go to marry in other places. Part seven concludes the study of the impact of opium
addiction on the Palaung in Northern Shan State and proposes some recommen-
History of Drugs in Palaung Areas
Before the ceasefire and the civil war in Burma, the Palaung people lived peace-
fully and they didnt grow opium in Northern Shan State. According to the
Poisoned Flowers Report212, there was no tradition of opium cultivation amongst
the Palaung. Rather, the villagers grew good quality tea and used their income
from tea cultivation to support their families. At that time the tea price was good
and the people were able to earn enough income to survive. There were few
people who used opium; the ones who did were mainly older people who came
from opium farm areas on the China-Burma border.
Poisoned Flowers, Opium Growing in Palaung Areas (2006) Palaung Womens Organization
(PWO), page 24.
Since the ceasefire was put in place, opium cultivation, drug trafficking and drug
addiction has increased in Northern Shan State. Authorities allow ceasefire groups
and militia groups to grow opium in their areas. The authorities appoint militia
groups called Tha Ka Sa Pha that are led by Pan Say Kyaw Myint , who is an ethnic
Chinese man and who and stays in the Palaung lands, controlling the southeastern
Namkham area. Kyaw Myint has 300-400 armed men to promote opium growing
in ethnic Chinese areas of Shan State. According to Shan Drug Watch, 213 militia
groups give protection to local opium growers and traders and in return they tax
the growers and give the profits to the SPDC. In other areas also controlled by the
militias there is little or no opium cultivation because the villagers are poor and
cannot afford to pay taxes to the militia groups. The local people also grow other
crops but it is not easy for them to get the amount of money that they can with
Shan States ethnic Chinese peoples traditional livelihood is poppy farming be-
cause they dont have tea farms like the Palaung people do. The SPDC gets large
taxes and bribes from militia groups controlling poppy cultivation. Palaung people
also grow opium but not much like Chinese people in Palaung land. They began to
grow opium because of the drop in the tea price once the Burmese military took
control. The Palaung people are in the situation of not being able to earn enough
income for their families to survive as they could before SPDC control.
Drug addiction is increasing in Palaung areas because of poverty and because of
the low tea prices. Palaung people are now becoming migrant workers and they
have to grow opium in ethnic Chinese villages to earn enough income to support
their families. While they are growing opium their bosses will sometimes provide
them with it for personal use, saying that they dont have money to give to the
workers and paying them with drugs instead.
The PSLA took action on the Palaung drug problem and worked to reduce
addiction but after the PSLA surrendered to the SPDC in 2005, addiction has
grown because the Burmese military does not do rehabilitation for addiction as the
PSLA did. Even if the PSLA tried to do rehabilitation now, the local drug addicts
would no longer have reason to respect their power and would be unwilling to
rehabilitate because they know that the PSLA has no weapons. Although the PSLA
had weapons to collect some addicts to come to rehabilitation camps in the past,
some of the local addicts didnt come and ran away. The PSLA didnt allow people
http://shanland.org/resources/bookspub/ShanDrugWatch%28Eng%29.pdf, page 16.
to grow opium but now that the SPDC is in control, they allow local people and
ceasefire groups to grow opium. This is part of their strategy for total control.
Current Opium Situation
In the current situation local people grow opium because local authorities encour-
age them to grow poppies and then collect taxes. According to reports from
Southern Shan State, Infantry Battalion 245 based in Mongani went to ask for a
bribe of 150,000 kyat ($120) from the an opium fields owner on the 21st of February,
2008 in Loi Pang Hawk Mountain in Wan Yart village. Wan Pa village and Nam
Hu village were forced to pay on the 22nd of February, 2008. 214
One of villagers said, They told us to plant and collected taxes from us in a Shan
Agency for News report. The report further claimed that every District Peace and
Development Council (DPDC) and Infantry Battalion went to look for opium
fields and collected taxes from local people in every township in Shan State in
early 2008. The authorities will sometimes destroy the least desirable crops so that
they are able to show foreign countries that they are doing something. 215
Most local people currently grow poppy under military control in Northern Shan
State. According to SHAN, a trader in the northern Shan State, Infantry Battalion
23 allowed villagers in Namknam Township to grow poppies, about 690 acres, so
that they could collect taxes.216 In December and January 2008, 10 people from the
local government including police, immigration, the fire brigade, and the forest
ministry combined forces to destroy the opium in Palaung areas. However, there
is still poppy cultivation because the government was ignoring the opium grow-
ing in October and November in 2007 by taking bribes from villagers, said the
Palaung government of Special Region 7.217
Background of the Palaung people and Namkham
Palaung (Taang) people are one of the indigenous nationalities in Burma. The
Palaung people live in the rural mountains of Palaung land, northern Shan State.
Some of them also live in urban areas in towns in southern and eastern Shan State.
http://www.shanland.org/drugs/2008/junta demands paid poppy tax, 21 February 2008.
The population of Palaung
people is over one million
and over 90% are Bud-
dhists; less than ten per-
cent are Christian and ani-
Palaung (Taang) originate
from Mon-Khmer stock.
The Palaung have a long
history and a strong sense
of unique identity. They
have their own language
and literature and a dis-
Poppy field in Palaung area. (Photo by PWO-
tinctive traditional culture Palaung Womens Organization).
such as food, dress, and
festivals. In the past they also enjoyed their own territory and a self-sufficient
economy. They have an army called the Palaung State Liberation Army (PSLA)
formed on the 12th of February, 1976. The PSLA fought against the Burmese
military to get autonomy and many Palaung people have become internally
displaced. The PSLA took a ceasefire with the Burmese military in 1991. However,
The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) forced the PSLA to fully surren-
der on the 29th of April, 2005, and took all of their weapons at this time. 218
The lands of the Palaung people have many ruby and sapphire mines and are rich
in minerals such as silver, zinc, gold and aluminum. The Palaung have a long
tradition of tea-growing in upland areas. Their tea is very famous in Burma for its
high quality. While the main export is tea, the Palaung also grow a variety of
temperate climate fruit crops such as apples, plums, avocados and pears, which
are highly valued in the lowland areas.
Research for this report was conducted in Namkhan Township, located in North-
ern Shan State. The area is bordered by China and by Kachin State. There are 20
villages in Namkham Township. The population is 30,000 and other ethnic groups
include the Chinese, Kachin, Burman, Palaung, Chinese, Shan and Muslim. The
main export is tea and rice. The main profession in Namkhan Township is
agriculture and specifically tea and rice crops. Some people collect food and other
things from the forest.
43rd Anniversary of the (Ta ang) Palaung National revolution Day, PSLF, pages 50 53.
Before PSLA took the ceasefire the local people grew tea and farmed rice every
year for their income. They had enough income to survive and support their
families. After the ceasefire some villages started to grow opium because the
Burmese military controlled the tea industry so the tea prices had become lower
and people could not get enough income as they had before. Under Burmese
military control the people are allowed to grow opium because they get bribes
from opium field owners. A lot of human rights violations such as forced labor,
Portering, forced relocation, corruption and drug problems have increased.
Motivation for Drug Use
A lot of people were poor after the civil war in northern Shan State. The Burmese
military allowed people to do poppy cultivation in Northern Shan State from 1997
to 2001 and many people started to grow poppy fields. Many people became drug
users during this time. Many people tried opium and then they grew it so that
they wouldnt need to buy it from other people. Some Palaung said we are
growing opium if we dont smoke it who will smoke it for us, it is for our
happiness. Palaung people grow poppies themselves and pay taxes to the SPDC,
they also work in other peoples poppy fields. Poppies are available and people
have become addicted to them. People also use drugs as medicine as the people
are depressed for many reasons.
Taxation is one reason that people are becoming drug addicts in Palaung areas.
People can grow poppies because the SPDC accepts their bribes in Burma. Some
opium growers give taxes to the authorities so that they will stop destroying their
The police came in the village three times to collect money from us. We have to
pay 20,000 [kyat] per time. One headman said, I have to collect money from the
village and give it to them. 219
- Two field owners
Some people report that they had to pay 100,000 kyat when the police came in to
their village to destroy their poppy plantation this year. According to SHAN, the
junta demands payment for poppy tax. The SPDC declared that Burma will be free
of opium cultivation in 2014, but they still collect taxes from opium growers. Drug
entrepreneurs report that Opium cultivation is back to the level of the 2001-2002
seasons in Shan State when the military authorities launched an all-out war on
drugs in Northern Shan State.220 Opium cultivation requires that people pay taxes
to the SPDC and it also creates many drug addicts in the community. Under this
system, no one can be free.
Working for Family Income
Most Palaung people are facing problems with their livelihoods after the tea price
became low and they had go to work in other places. Many Palaung people go to
work on poppy fields in Chinese villages in the Palaung areas of Shan State
controlled by Kyaw Myints Militia groups. When they come back they are drug
addicts because often their bosses would give them drugs instead of a salary.
Sometimes ethnic Chinese in Burma use drugs for forming relationships with their
friends. When their friends come to visit their homes they smoke opium. One of
the drugs users reported that he started to use drugs and then there were problems
between him and his wife.
I started to use drugs when my wife left me at the time I went to farm in a Chinese
village. One day I got stomachache and the farm owner gave me opium to take
as a medicine. After that I tried opium again and when my wife heard she left me.
I came home and I tried to find her but she didnt come back. So I went and I have
been staying with the farm owner for a long time, I started using heroin there. I
have only come back to the village because my mother died.221
Another Palaung man went to a Chinese village with his family to be a teacher in
Kon Kang, Palaung area. The Chinese villagers allowed and helped him to grow
poppy in their village now, consequently, he is a big drug addict. Later his family
came to stay with his mother in the village but he didnt support his family and he
went to the logging area in Kachin State. After that his wife took their youngest
child and went to China to marry a Chinese man there. Two of the children were
left with the mans mother and she sent them to different orphanages to study.
One of his daughters is in Mogok and one of his sons is in Maline.
www.shanland.org/drugs/2008/junta demands paid poppy tax, 21 February 2008.
Using Drugs for Medicine
People use drugs as a medicine when they feel tried or sick from working very and
it leads them to become a drug addict. According to a UNODC report on life in the
Wa hills in September, 2006. One of the villagers who stay in Yong Ran village, in
Wein Kao district got wounded when he was 17 years old it was so painful that he
uses opium to feel better and now he has become an opium addict.222
Some drug users were depressed because of fights with their family or their
friends. Some people become depressed when their dreams do not come true and
so they try opium and later they become drug users.
One of my friends wants to marry his lover but their parents will not allow it. He
feels depressed and tried drugs so now he is a drug addict. 223
- Palaung drug addict
Men also feel peer pressure to use drugs from each other. Men will tell their
friends you are not men if you dont use drugs and after you use drugs we will
feel happy. If someone is married and they dont use drugs their friends will say
that the man is afraid of their wife. Men do not want their friends to look down on
them and that why they try to use drugs. They convince each and become the drug
addicts. According to SHANs annual report in 2007, a villager in Yong Moot said,
I started to use opium when my friends told me about the heavenly pleasure
they left me when they use smoke opium so I started use too during a week I
become drug user I couldnt stop using opium224
Impacts of Addiction on Families
Many Palaung people report that families have faced domestic violence because of
drugs and that it has a negative impact on children. The members of the family
become depressed when they have a problem in their family. Sometimes the
children may lose their parents and will become orphans. Sometimes the children
www.unodc.org/pdf/myanmar/reducing the demand for drugs.pdf, page 4.
www.unodc.org/pdf/annual report 2007/southeastasia.pdf, page 63.
will be forced to drop out of school and start working to support the family when
the family is getting poor and does not have enough food. Some children have to
stay in other houses to look after babies and become housekeepers.
Many villagers said that domestic violence increases in local areas because the
husbands are involved in drugs. Most wives and children have to work hard to
support their family without help from husbands. Not only wives and children
have to support themselves but also they have to pay money to the father for his
drugs. When wives and children have no money to give their husband or father
they are beaten. Many parents are often fighting and getting divorced so children
face social problems because their parents cannot support them to attend school.
When we have no money to pay him he close the door and beat my mother at the
same time we can not shout if we shout he will beat more because he afraid our
neighbor to help us, That why nobody can help us when he beat my us. We go to
work in the farm everyday we afraid to be getting dark because when we go back
home the problems are waiting us.225
Children have no chance to stop their fathers drug use. Even if they can stop their
father from using drugs their father will become an alcoholic.
Before he drank alcohol he used drugs for 3 or 4 years. After he stopped using
drugs he started to drink alcohol and sometimes there is not enough food for the
family to share. Their father is drunk all the time and sometimes he beats them
when he is drunk.226
Domestic violence in broken families has a negative impact on children because
wives are beaten by their husbands all the time. They get divorced when the
mother becomes depressed and she cannot continue in the situation. Divorce has a
negative impact on both the wife and the children because they will all be looked
down upon by the community. Its difficult for the children because they still have
both parents, but their parents are divorced. Their mother may marry someone
else in a different community. If they stay with their father he will not care them
well and will force them to find money for him to buy drugs. If they stay with their
mother they may be beaten by their stepfather. The children cannot stay with their
parents, either their mother or their father, and they have to stay with their
grandparents. If they dont have grandparents they have to stay with their
My father and my mother divorce when I was 4 years old, I get new father but we
dont stay with them we just stay with my grandparents.227
Many Palaung families are broken apart and children become orphans and single
parents children because of drugs. The money that father makes goes to buying
drugs but it is not enough because drugs are expensive. Fathers sell their property
and family possessions to get drug. If they have no property and family posses-
sions to sell, they steal cattle, wood and other things to sell and get drugs. If the
villagers report the stolen things to the militia of village, the militia group will
arrest the father and their wives become depressed and sometimes die. If the
wives die the children are left only with their fathers.
Although these children still have a father they look like a child who doesnt have
parents because their father doesnt look after them because fathers are busy
working and getting drugs. If their father cannot find money he will force children
to find money for him to buy drugs. Some Palaung children become orphans but
they cannot stay in orphanages and they just stay with other people to be house
keepers and baby-sitters in their communities. Although they want to stay in
orphanages they need to go other places and they need money for their trip to go
to stay in the orphanages, in bigger towns and in other districts.
My mother got a heart attack and died when I was in 5 standard in 2004. She
died because of my father, because he sold our farm and our things now I am
working to support my father because if I dont give money to him, he will steal
from the village. One of my brothers is in the orphanages228
Interviews 4, 6, 9, 18 and 21.
Some parents give their own children to other people because the father is a drug
user and the mother is either divorced or dead. One of the villagers said that her
brother, who is a drug user, didnt look after his children at the time his wife went
to China to marry with a Chinese man. He gave his children to his mother. His
mother also could not support his children so she sent his son to Maline and his
daughter to an orphanage in Mogok to study.
After my mother died, my father give my sister to my aunt. She has stayed with my
aunt until now and has become my aunts daughter. but my father often comes
and asks money from my aunt.229
Selling Property & Family Possessions
In many cases interviewees reported that drugs addicts not only demanded money
from their wives and children but also sold their property and took any of their
family possession that they could sell to buy drugs. This causes greater stress and
poverty for the family and make its very difficult to send the children to school.
Rather, children have to work hard to survive.
He pawned their tea farm, land and rice farm then he took everything. If the
prices he gets is 100 kyat he gets drugs. When he doesnt have alcohol to drink he
also steals their possessions. 230
Impact on Women
Many people said women suffer most from their husbands drug abuse. Wives
have to work hard to support the family and to look after the children. The women
are also beat by the men when they have no money and they feel depressed and
My father never supports us because he uses drugs. He also works but the money
he earns is not enough for his drugs. He takes something from my family and he
exchanges it and sells it to buy drugs. He often beats my mother because of drugs
because when he doesnt have drugs to use he gets angry at us.231
Wives get many kind of diseases from their husbands who use drugs and suffer
from things such as cancer and heart attacks. If their husbands are drug addicts
wives get depressed and get diseases because when drug users want to use drugs
they care about nothing they will do anything to get drugs. They sell their families
properties or steal and blame it on the drugs. Their wives become depressed get
diseases and die. Some wives face HIV/AIDS because when their husbands be-
come big drug addicts and inject drugs they will get HIV/AIDS and can spread the
infection to their wives and children. According to the Poison Flower Report one
Shan man had HIV/AIDS and married a Palaung woman. One month after they
married he was sick and died; nobody knew he had HIV/AIDS and after his death
his wife married his younger brother. Later they also died.232
Struggling for the Family
Most villagers report that women have to take responsibly to support the family,
they have work hard to feed their children and husband because their husbands
are drug addicts, they ignore their families. Everything they earn is for their
drugs. Their wives have to carry teak, firewood, charcoal, and wood to keep the
My mother carries charcoal to support us; sometimes she picks tea when they
dont have charcoal to carry.233
Some women have to carry their children to pick tea when their children are
young. Some give their children to stay with their parents when they go to work in
My mother cannot do hard work she had stomachache but when my sisters and
brothers were young she had to carry them and pick tea.234
Their husbands not only stop supporting the family but also sell their property
and take things from their houses in exchange for drugs.
Poisoned Flowers, page 44.
Yesterday I went to my tea farm and my father stole my dry tea and my rice
that why I have no rice to eat today.235
Not only does the husband sell the familys possessions and steal, but he also
demands money from the family and threatens to beat them.
He never support us sine he became a drug addict until now and although he
doesnt support us he asks for money 236
Women become depressed by their husbands drug use. Women are left to solve
the problem when their husbands borrow money from other people and they
dont pay back, and then lender comes to ask for money in their house and their
wives have to pay it back. Women are ashamed when they have no money to pay
back because the lender will say something to them. When the husbands sell their
property wives feel sad and become depressed.
My mother died because of my father because he sells our farm and our goods.
After he stole other goods to buy drugs, when he does like that the militia often
come in our house find him and then the lenders also demanded their money
which my father borrowed so my mother got a heart attack and died.237
Affects of Drug Use on Children
Most children of drug users become either farmers, domestic workers or migrant
Many Palaung children have to work to help provide for their family. Some
children have to work in other places and some have to carry charcoal and
firewood with their mother. Some have to support all of their family members
needs when their mother cannot work.
Their children as young as 16 and younger
have to look for charcoal every day in the
forest so that their families will survive. Some
are still young and they pick tea. Sometimes
if some businessmen have something to do
they call them to work.238
Some villagers report that some children work
for other people without earning a salary be-
cause their father already took their earnings.
When his children work for other people he
has already took the money from the boss.239
Palaung children going home from the tea
Although some children dont have to work plantation; the young girl has to take care of
in the farm they have to work in their house her little brother and work.
(Photo by Lway Poe Taung).
when their mother goes to work in the farm.
They have to look after their brothers and sisters, washing, cleaning and cooking.
Sometimes they have to care for their brothers and sisters without their parents
when their parents go to work in another place. Someone has to care for the other
children and support them if they are orphans.
One of my sister stays with other people to look after their children. I am staying
with my cousin and sister to look after their children.240
Palaung children are told that they have to work in other places as servants to
support their family. Even if a child leaves their house because of their father and
goes elsewhere to work their father will find them at their new work and demand
I am working in China. Sometimes I come back in my village to see my sister
and I have to pay money to my father and his debt to other people too.241
Some villagers report that many Palaung children become cowboys; they have to
look after the cattle to get income for their family because of their fathers drug use.
Their father stops supporting them and mother also cannot support them so the
children have to survive by themselves. Someone has to look after the cattle and
someone has to work another kind of job.
I am picking tea; one of my brothers has to look my grandparents cow; two of
my sisters are still young and my mother looks after them and my mother has a
Some children were sold by their fathers to be the wives of Chinese men in China
and servants in other places. When fathers become drug addicts their earning are
not enough for them to buy drugs so they will do anything to get drugs. They sell
all of their property and possessions. When they have no property and possessions
left to sell they sell their own children to get money to buy drugs.
My father sold two my oldest sister to marry a Chinese before my mother died.
After my mother died my sisters came and called my youngest sister to stay with
According to the Poison Flower Report interview 53, One of the drug addicts is
using drugs for 8 years. Before he used drugs he used to be a rich man and he is a
tea trader. After that he lost his business and become a poor. He sold all his tea
farms and everything from his house. When he didnt have things to sell he sold
two of his own daughters to a female trafficker. The trafficker call his daughters
aged 25 and 23 to Ruili City on the China border and sold them to the Chinese man
to be their wives. Even the girls dont want to be their wife but they dont have
choice because their father already took money from the trafficker.244
Poisoned Flowers, page 53.
Economic & Social Impacts of Addiction
Palaung people are getting poorer and poorer because drug addiction increasing.
According to the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights (ICESCR) Article 9, Everyone has the right to social security and social
insurance. Palaung people are facing economic and social problems such as
negative health impacts, a lack of food and no access to education. Although some
children study they are forced to drop out of school by their parents.
His children not only cannot go to school but they also have not enough food
and no health care so they cannot be big. They just look small like they have a
Impacts on Health
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) Article 25 states everyone
has right to a living standard for health care. The Convention on the Rights of the
Child (CRC) Article 24 states that every child has the right to access health care.
Even though the Burmese government signed the CRC and the UDHR, most
Palaung children still dont get health care when they get sick because the lack of
medical care and money to buy medicine. Villages are far from towns and medi-
cine is expensive.
Because the Burmese government does not stop the drug production many people
become drug users and it negatively affects childrens health. Drug users families
are poor and cannot afford medicine. In the past although parents had no money
to buy medicine to care their children they could go and collect traditional medi-
cines in the forest. Now traditional medicines have disappeared because of drug
cultivation. When they grow the poppy field they have to log the trees. Further-
more, drug users log forest so that they can sell wood and charcoal to support their
habits. This all makes it harder for children to survive and be healthy.
Food Insecurity & Children
Many Palaung children live in poor families because their fathers are drugs
addicts. They do have not enough food for eating because only their mother works
to support them and their father. Their father doesnt care whether or not they
have food to eat. Their father just cares how to get money in order to buy drugs.
Sometimes all of the family members are hunger.
Sometimes their food is not enough for them and they have to share246
According to the UDHR, Article 26
and CRC Article 28, primary educa-
tion should be free to all and compul-
sory. Everyone has the right to educa-
tion. Some villagers reveal that chil-
dren cannot study because their fa-
ther is a drug addict; they cannot pay
school fees and there is no free educa-
tion in Northern Shan State, Burma.
Although some can study they cannot
finish their school because they have
to leave the school when their parents
cannot support them. The causes of
the educational problems for children
are related to their fathers use of
drugs. Children have to look after their
young sisters and brothers, someone
has to help their mother to work,
school fees are expensive, there is no
She cannot go to school because she must look after
high school in the rural areas where her young sister. (Photo by Lway Poe Taung).
Palaung children live, there are not
enough teachers and transportation is
We are 8 people Just two of my sisters can go, nobody finished school although
they studied they have to leave when they arrived to high school standard. Some
of us can not go to school because my parents can not support us to attend the
school because we are poor.247
Children cannot go to school because their parents are poor. Their father doesnt
support the family because of addiction. Their mother cannot support the children
to go the school alone and children have to help their mother to support the family
survive. Even if they have no sisters and brothers to look after they have to keep
their house when their parents go to work because there are many thieves in their
communities. Their father also works but not for their family anymore, rather only
for drugs. Some children dont want to attend the school because they are
ashamed their fathers are drug addicts. In some places the school is far from their
U Aik Kyaw has 6 children. All of his children cannot go to school because he
drinks alcohol and he doesnt do anything.248
Children Taken from School
In many cases children were forced to drop out of school by their parents when
their father became a drug user. Their father stopped supporting their family so
their mother has to work to support their family and they need people to look after
their children who are still young. They force their children to drop out the school
to help them to look after their young sisters and brothers and work with mother
to support family. Sometimes their parents cannot pay their school fee so they
forced their children to leave the school. One of the interviewee said,
Lway Aye Aye is oldest daughter in her family. Her father started to use drugs
when she attended two standards that why after she passes the exam from two
standards to attend three standards they have no money to support her. She looks
after her sister and work in their house. She really want to attend the school be-
cause she has no friend to play in their house so she takes her sister and to visit
near the school stay there wait her friends to play with them who can attend the
school if her friend take a break she come to join they play together. When her
friends finished the school she also goes back with her friends and goes to her
home to cook.249
Impacts of Addiction on Communities
The impacts of drug use on Palaung communities are changes in the childrens
behavior; children getting married early, young people getting married in other
places far from their hometown, hopelessness, isolation and an increase in crimes
Behavioral Changes in Children
Before drugs were popular in Shan State, Palaung children were very useful for
the community. Some children could attend the school in town and become
educated. After they finished the school they helped their parents to support their
family. Now most of Palaung children become drug users as their father. Not only
do they leave school but they are also dishonest. Children steal money from their
parents and steal other things.
All of my children cannot study because their father uses drugs and all my sons
also became drug users Now nobody stays with me. One of my daughters also
does not want to stay in the house because her brothers often come to eat in the
house sometimes they steal her things such as her earring or ring.250
Although Burma signed the CRC they dont follow the rule because in CRC article
6 and in UDHR article 3, everyone has rights to life including children. Some
children die because of the fact that the SPDC allows local people grow poppy.
Most of these people become drug addicts and they dont care about their children
who get sick and die.
In the case that the father uses drugs they become poorer and the parents cannot
send children to school. When the children get sick parents have no money to care
for the children and cannot send the children to the hospital so some children
should not die but they do die because of drugs. Some children can go to the
orphanages to attend the school but when they get sick they have to go to the clinic
without paying money to the doctor so doctors dont care for them like they do for
people who can pay money. Some children get HIV/AIDS from injections and
some overdose on drugs and die.
One of their sons can attend but he went to other place to live in an orphan-
age to attend the school there. When he got sick there he went to the hospital
and he needed blood but the doctor didnt check the blood he put in him. After
that he left the school he came back to help his mother to work in the village.
After one year he got sick again they sent him to hospital. His father didnt look
after him. Only his mother looked after him until he died.251
Leaving the Village
In many cases the girls go to get married in other places because they dont find
men who are not drug users in the Palaung community. Most Palaung men are
drug users and so are some children, youth and old men. Some womens mothers
send them to get married with a Chinese man in China and in towns because they
dont want their daughter suffer from their husband like they have. Some women
dont want to stay in their family because their father used drugs and if they marry
a men in the village husband will also be like their father. Many Palaung women
know this and they go to marry in another place, especially in China.
Some children dont want to stay in the community because they are shy and
ashamed because they are the children of drugs addicts. They become isolated in
the community so they go to work in another place and some get married there.
Because of my father we are looked down on by the community. That why I dont
want to stay at home252
According to the Poison Flower Report one of the local people said that one of
drugs user have 9 children just only one person stay at home most of his children
dont want to stay at home because they shy they are the children of drugs
Most of Palaung women get married early at 15 or 16 years old. Many of them are
from poor families and are the children of drug users. Their fathers use drugs and
Poisoned Flowers, page 65.
cannot send them to study. Not only cant they study they also have to work all
the time to support their family. They are staying in the community for a long time
and they have no time to go outside, therefore they get married early. They can feel
happy when they start to marry but after that they have to work harder than
before they were married.
I married with my husband when I was 18 years old I have to work harder now
than when I was in my family. They are poor and all of my husbands siblings are
men so I have to support them. I have 6 children, my two daughters already died
but my husbands brothers have three sons and one daughter. My husband al-
ready died because he used drugs when our children were young. Now all of my
sons use drugs as their father did. The oldest already has 4 children, his oldest
daughter already got married when she was 16 years old she also has one child
In the past there were fewer crimes in Palaung areas. At the time there were few
drugs users but now because of the increased drug use, crime such as theft has
been increasing. Drug users steal dried tea, cattle, wood and other things which
they can sell and exchange for drugs. Sometimes they also steal cattle in the forest.
Some are sentenced by the headman but he also does not care because the head-
man also releases them when their family members come and give him money.
There are many robbers in Palaung areas, the robbers wait in the market road and
if someone goes to the market without friends they will be robbed by robbers who
are drugs users. Some drugs addicts work for their drugs but what they earn is not
enough so they become stealers and robbers. Sometimes they fight each other
because of the drugs. For these reasons there are more crimes now in Palaung area
Special Region 7.
He steals things in their village. If the militia arrests him his mother has to pay
money to the militia to release him. Sometimes his mother cannot give money to
the militia or to the headman of their village. They arrest him and sentence him
and tie him by rope in the house but they often release him because they can not
feed him. 255
Children become hopeless because they cannot attend school, they just work
everyday in Palaung areas. Some have to stay in the house without parents
because their parents use or have died from drugs. If both parents are drug users
they will ignore their children and they have to look after each other. According to
the Shwe Pyi Oo Journal there are four children staying in one old house and
surviving by themselves without parents. Their father used drugs for 10 years and
died; their mother married with another person and moved in to her husbands
Aung Yins husband used drugs for four years. He doesnt support his children
when he starts to use drugs until now only his wife support their family. Some-
times he demanded money from his wife when his wife doesnt have money to
give to him he hit his wife so they divorced. After that he got married again with
another woman who was a drugs user like him. They have one child they gave
their child to stay with his wifes parents.256
There are many drugs users in Palaung areas because the SPDC allowed people to
grow opium in the past and continues to do so unofficially now. Even though the
SPDC said they will try to stop drug production in Burma, they still collect taxes
from poppy growers and drug traffickers. The SPDC is using drugs as a weapon
to control the Palaung people and it is having negative impact on Palaung children
because local people work in poppy fields in Palaung areas and most of the men
then become drug users.
Drug addiction has many negative impacts on children such as that children
cannot study, have no parents, no hope, no health care, become orphans, work to
help their family survive and become the victims of child trafficking. Some chil-
dren become migrant workers and some have no house to stay in. Drug addiction
not only impacts children but also impacts women and the community. Because of
drugs there is no security for the people in the community and women suffer from
husbands who are drug users.
Not only Palaung people suffer from drug addiction but people in other regions
face many problems as well. The SPDC allows local people to grow poppies
because they get taxes from poppies and drug production. They also have con-
trolled the tea industries in Palaung areas after the civil war, the tea price is low
and people are vulnerable.
Palaung people are poor. The people work for family income and become drugs
addicts. Some get depressed and use drugs and some people peer pressure each
other into it. Wives and children have to work hard to support their family.
Children are forced to work in the farm, as house keepers, migrant workers, cattle
watchers and some children are sold by their own fathers. Most Palaung people
face economic and social problems such as a lack of health care, little or no access
to education and crime. Similar problems face people all over Burma.
The SPDC became a member of (UNODC) United Nation Office on Drugs and
Crimes and signed the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in July 1963 and
the amended 1972 Protocol in 1991. According to this convention, Article 38, state
parties must give special attention to the abuse of drugs for prevention. There is
serious drug abuse in Palaung areas and some people die because of drugs. The
SPDC does not care-they just care about collecting money from poppy growers
and drug producers. The more that the SPDC collects taxes without destroying
the opium farms, the more people will grow opium and drug addiction will
increase in Burma. Through this policy, the SPDC will grow richer and grow more
To the State Peace and Development Council:
To take action to stop drug addiction nationally
To protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs
To take action against the drug producers
To stop collecting taxes from drug traffickers and poppy field owners
To rehabilitate drug addicts
To respect the UDHR and CRC and take responsibility for providing free pri-
mary school education for all children in Burma.
To create and meaningfully implement strong laws against drug production in
To obey international law including the Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
To Ceasefire and Militia Groups:
To stop drug production in Palaung areas.
To the International Community:
To encourage SPDC to reduce drug production in Burma
To pressure SPDC to stop taking taxes from poppies field owner without destroy
To pressure SPDC to follow the international law
To Opium Field Owners and Drug Producers:
To stop doing poppies field in Palaung areas.
To stop produce drugs in Burma
To stop children who are dealing in drugs
To encourage the education for children and care children health
To respect the children future
To Local People:
To stop using drugs
People who are drugs addict should thinking about generation
To stop giving bribes to the SPDC for growing opium
To promote knowledge of children
To the UNODC:
To pressure the SPDC on drug production issues in Burma and to collect taxes
from poppy field and drugs producers.
To pressure the SPDC to promote awareness trainings drug abusers in Burma.
The Price is Getting Very High:
The Reasons Behind the Lack of Education for Children
in Kutkai Township, Northern Shan State, Burma
By William Wallace
The quality of Burmas education has declined over the last three decades due to
the SPDCs failed policies. The military regime uses 70 percent of the countrys
budget for itself. The SPDC does not focus on education and health care programs.
The SPDC only provides 1.4 percent of the whole countrys budget for education,
crippling the system.257
According to a UNICEF report, 39 percent of the children in Burma are lacking
education. The dropout rate is very high, especially in the rural areas. Although
the government has announced 84 percent of the population is educated in Burma,
in reality many people are illiterate. The literacy rate in remote areas is less than 10
percent. According to a 2004 United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC)
report on the Wa area of Shan State, 96 per cent of the population cannot read and
Children under the age of 18 make up approximately 40% of the population. The
military junta claims that it provides free public education for students up until the
age of 16,259 but there are many education problems in Burma. There are not
enough teachers and schools, there is limited access to education, and the cost of
school supplies is rising. These problems are happening everywhere in Burma.
This research focuses on a small region of the northern Shan State called Kutkai
Township. The deteriorating education system in Burma is affecting the children
from this area. They are increasingly uneducated. The United Nations Convention
on the Rights of the Child explains that children should get a free primary
education but many children in the region cannot access primary education.
Instead, they are forced to suffer from the effects of a political and economic crisis.
www.nhecburma.org/report.htm, School Education Research Journal (2005) Vol. 1, p. 1.
Ibid., page 2.
www.aseanmp.org; Situation Update, Child Rights in Burma.
This report puts forward the claim that the education situation in made worse by
human rights abuses committed by both SPDC and ceasefire groups and specifi-
cally the recruitment of child soldiers.
This research examines the current education situation in three villages. This
report includes information obtained from fieldwork at these sites. Data was
collected by interviews with teachers, students, students parents, a headmistress
of a school, a village head, child soldiers, religious people and youth leaders.
There are five parts of this report. In part (1), I will provide some basic background
information about the focus area including its political, economic, and educational
history. In Part (2) I will describe the current education, political and economic
situation there. In part (3) I will present the reasons for the lack of education for
local children. In part (4) I will draw conclusions and explain why this problem is
critical. Finally, in part (5), I will put recommendations forward to the govern-
ment, armed groups, teachers, students, parents, and the international communi-
ties as for how to change the situation for the better.
This area has only a Satellite Middle School. The fact that it is a satellite middle
school means that it is not a permanent middle school and that there is a main
middle school in a bigger village or town that it is officially connected to. There is
a significant student population and accordingly it should have at least one
permanent middle school.
The political situation is very complicated. The Kachin Independence Army (KIA)
has been fighting for independence since 1962. The KIA reached a ceasefire with
the SPDC in 1993. The KIA and the SPDC both have military camps in one of these
villages. Not only are these two armed-groups in the area, but the Kachin Defense
Army (KDA) and Thar Moe Nge militia camps are also there. The Kachin Defense
Army seceded from Kachin Independence Army in 1992 and then signed a ceasefire
with the SPDC. Each of these four armed-groups control what they can and the
situation is uneasy.
The economic situation is also precarious. There are no regional products and
there is not enough farmland. Before 2001, the people from this region planted
poppies. The military and ceasefire groups partnership banned poppy growing in
this region in 2001. Armed-groups control all drug distribution and production.
Only the people who are a relative of someone in an armed group can sell drugs;
these people distribute drugs throughout the region to make money. Given this
arrangement, the number of drug users continues to increase at the same time that
other products to grow and/or sell are lacking.
Schools in are built by the
K.I.A and the SPDC sends
teachers for them. The K.I.A
sends one or two teachers
and not more than this num-
ber each year. Sometimes the
SPDC will call back the teach-
ers that they have sent to be
transfers to new locations.
Under these conditions
childrens education suffers.
Widespread fear and human
rights abuses are evident.
Little is known about these Satellite Middle School. (Photo by Wallace).
human rights abuses because the location of this region is isolated and far from
the urban areas. There is little communication and transportation to other villages.
As a result, the education system is in decline.
The Current Education Situation
According to a recent report of the UN special rapporteur for Burma on the
situation of human rights in Burma, 968,000 children do not attend primary school
in Burma. While this figure includes children in a number of areas, it presumably
also includes displaced children. In contract, the Burmese government statistics
report that 97.58 percent of primary school aged children are enrolled in school.260
There are three schools in my research area, the Satellite Middle School, and two
primary schools. One of the three villages is small; it has 519 households and the
population is 3,976 people. One-third of the population is children (about 1,290
people), but only 620 children can access education. About 670 children are left
without access to education in that village. Last year 53 students dropped out of
school for many reasons including recruitment to be a child soldier or work as
forced labor, prohibitive school costs, child labor, forced taxes, parental attitudes
and drug abuse. The status of an additional 12 students is unsure for the coming
school year. The primary school class of this school had more than 551 students
last year. However, there are only 119 students attending middle school classes,
meaning that many students drop out rather than continuing their studies.
One primary school had 43 students last year. This school provides grade one to
five with two permanent teachers and one part -time teacher. There are 16 children
in the community who lack education. Last year 11 children could not continue to
go school after they finished grade five from this school.
There is one more village. This village has a primary school with 18 students in this
school. There are 10 students in grade one, 3 students in grade two and 5 students
in grade three in this school. This school has only a single room and one teacher. In
this village there are 4 children who cannot access education.
About 690 children hunger for education in the entire region. The amount of
students attending school has been increasing since the World Food Program
(WFP) began providing food for primary students. There were fewer children who
Human rights situations that require the Councils attention, Report of the Special Rapporteur
on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar.
Primary School. (Photo by Wallace).
could access education before the World Food Program provided food for stu-
dents. Now, parents are trying to send their young children to school to get them
food from the WFP. At the schools there are not enough facilities and classrooms
due to an increase in enrolled students. It is difficult for the teachers to control so
many students of such different ages. Most students are over five years old and
some are over ten years old in primary classes. After primary school a lot of
students cannot continue to middle school education.
Reasons Students Cannot Continue Education
Recruitment of Child Soldiers
Burma has one of the largest numbers of child soldiers of any country in the world.
Although the minimum age for conscription is 18, Human Rights Watch has
estimated that children may account for 35 to 40 percent of new recruits into the
Burmese national armymaking children 70,000 or more Burmas estimated 350,000
Children under the age of 18 are also present in armed opposition groups. Accord-
ing to some estimates the combined non-state armies including the Kachin Inde-
pendence Army and other ceasefires groups contain between 6,000 and 7,000
soldiers under the age of eighteen. This
includes groups that forcibly recruit, but
are not currently fighting in Kachin and
The KIA and the KDA are also continu-
ing voluntary and forced recruitment of
both girls and boys younger than 18. Both
groups take children from schools and
force them into recruitment centers. The
children have a few others choices for
employment and there is no national so-
cial welfare program to secure their
familys survival in their homeland.
There are two ceasefire group education
centers close to this region, one belongs
to the KDA and the other to the KIA.
Many poor children join these two edu-
KIA soldiers, children. (Photo by Wallace).
cation centers to access education.
The armed groups recruit children by exploiting their educational needs and age.
If a child is recruited by an armed-group the child will drop out school and join the
army. The childs psychology will change very easily at that vulnerable age.
Recruitment into an armed group is the worst possible scenario for a childs future,
the child will be badly affected. Both KIA and KDA receive children for schooling
from their parents. Most parents are very poor and it is difficult for them to
support their children to go school and therefore they send their children to these
education centers to access education. In reality, the KIA and KDA put the chil-
dren into recruitment training if the children failed the examination. And if the
children are old and tall enough to take recruitment they put the children into
recruitment training to be a soldier.
The Kachin Independence Army and the Kachin Defense Army collect people
twice a year in the region to give training by force. They collect children who are
big and tall enough to take recruitment, such as those who are 9 or 10 years old. If
they do not get enough people they forced to call even the younger children from
Child soldiers: CRC Country Briefs, Pre sectionals Working Group, 36th session, 2004.
During last October holiday, a K.I.A commander and his colleague asked me
to collect some students for their recruitment. But I told him I did not allow this.
I dont want my students to be a soldier. I complained to them and begged
them not to arrest the students to put in the recruitment training. I told them that
you can collect the people who are not my student or some one else.262
- A school teacher
One parent reported that her daughter was arrested by KIA to be put in the
recruitment center last month. Her daughter is 17 years old and recently finished
My daughter is taking recruitment in the KIA training camp now. KIA arrested her
as soon as she arrived from the school two weeks ago after her ten standard ex-
One child who was forcibly recruited said: While I slept next to my grandmother
KIA soldiers arrested me and took me to the training camp. At that time I was only
9 years old and was attending grade five in the primary School.264
Every ceasefire group collects people during the holidays because some parents
send their children to town to go school. They want their children to get an
education and to have a good life. If they do not send their children to town they
know armed groups will arrest their children to be soldier. Many children are
living away from their family to evade being taken as a soldier. Students come
back to their family during summer holiday. Both KIA and KDA collect the
students while they visit their parents during holiday.
The government of Burma has acceded to a number of international labor organi-
zation (ILO) conventions, including the forced labor convention of 1930. Forced
labor is defined by the international labor organization in forced labor convention
No. 29: For purpose of this convention the term forced or compulsory labor shall
mean all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of
nay penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.
Interview with youth.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 4 says that, No one shall be
held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slavery trade shall be prohibited in all
The Burmese governments own late states that The ministry of home affairs of
the Burma government of the Union of Myanmar, under the direction of the State
Peace and Development Council, hereby directs that the following amendment
shall be made to Order No.1/99 dated 14th May 1999 as requisition of forced labor
is illegal and is an offence under the existing laws of the Union of Myanmar. Local
authorities, members of the armed forces, police and other public service personal
shall not requisition work as a service except emergency arises due to fire, flood,
storm, earthquake, epidemic disease, war, famine and epizootic disease that pose
an imminent danger to the general public and community.266
Burma ratified the International labor organization (ILO) convention prohibiting
forced labor in 1995, and is currently being investigated by the ILO commission of
inquiry under Article 26.267
The Burmese governments and the other armed-groups use of forced labor is
continuing on a widespread scale in Burma and is accompanied by massive
violations of other human rights. Men and women of all ages are forced to work
against their will, including children and elderly people. The SPDC calls such as
labor as donated (loh ah pay) with the full of consent of civilians for good of the
nation. Forced labor is when a person forced to work for the military or another
armed group. Donated labor is when people are requested and choose to work for
a religious leader or village head. Sometimes religious people, local authorities
and local people argue that forced labor is a traditional practice using civilian
labor in constructing temples or palaces in Burmese society. Yet, in the rural areas
people are forced to grow food, build infrastructure and carry equipment for the
Forced labor and donated labor (loh ah pay) are quite different. Forced labor is
demand by the military armed-groups and if the villagers do not attend the
military will punish them. Villagers are put in jail and fined about 2500 kyat a day.
Slave Labor in Burma: An Examination of the SLORCs Forced Labor Policies (1996) No. 9,
Union of Myanmar Ministry of Home Affairs, prohibiting requisition of forced labor, p. 11.
All Quiet on the Western Front, page 13.
Loh ah pay is requested by a religious leader or village head to build a temple,
church, orphanage or widows house. Both forced labor and donated labor are
unpaid but when someone chooses to do donated labor they are provided food,
drink and tools.
Most people from this research area are subjected to forced labor and other human
rights abuses or live under the constant threat of being subjected to them because
Battalion 312 and K.I.A have bases in the center of on of the villages. Both SPDC
and KIA demand forced labor everyday. Villagers have to build the military camp
buildings and three layers of fence around the camp once a year with their own
bamboo and equipment. They often have to clean up the military camp and
ceasefire groups camp too. Both the SPDC and the ceasefire groups do not pay for
forcibly using the villagers labor.
The military and ceasefire groups also use forced labor by setting up a duty list for
each day. Each household has to perform duty for the military and armed-groups.
Both the SPDC and ceasefire groups make pieces of wood to pass around to almost
every household as a sign that it is their turn to take duty for a day. There are about
519 households in the village, but not every household needs to take on the duty. If
someone gets a high position in an armed-group or works for the government,
their family is free of performing forced labor unlike other families. The poor
families, uneducated and powerless families suffer most in this system.
A person who is
labor must go the
military camp at 8
am in the morning
and they need to
spend the whole
day there no matter
what until 4pm. The
laborer has to bring
his or her own tools
and food. The
SPDC. KIA or KDA
never pays money
to villager for using
their labor. The KIA forced labor: road repairs. (Photo by Wallace).
SPDC orders forced
laborers to grow vegetables in the camp compound and also to deliver letters
from one village to another village. Other forced labor duties include cleaning the
camp compound, carrying firewood, and carrying water both for showering and
In 2006 the military began construction on a Buddhist pagoda in the village. Local
people were used as forced labors for this pagodas construction. The villagers
were not able to object to their order, though all the villagers are not Buddhist.
Every household and each person has to carry rock, water, sand and other equip-
ment for pagoda building. Each household has to go 2 days and has to pay 700
Although we are not Buddhist we have to pay money to build pagoda starting in
2006. This pagoda building project is by order of the military. We have to carry
water because the building site is on the mountain. We have to carry block, sand
and equipment for building. Whether we are Buddhist or not, we must pay money
and labor to build this pagoda.269
It is very difficult for the villages to earn money for their family in this situation.
The military and armed groups are sucking the property of the villagers by many
ways. This is a big problem for the villagers. So their economic situation will not
get raised up to get comfortable life. How can they support their children to go
school, if they can not earn money? If the villagers have their own transportation;
Such as a motorbike, bull cart, and car they are assigned daily work transporting
goods for the Military. If the parents cannot earn money and cannot get enough
food they cannot send their children to school. If the parents do not have enough
time to work in their field or earn money, then the children must help instead of
going to school. Also if the parents are busy, then the children must go for forced
labor and not go to school.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child provides that children under eighteen
have a right to be protected from performing any work that is likely to be
hazardous or to interfere with the childs education, or to be harmful to the childs
health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.
Although there are a lot of laws to protect children, according to the International
Labor Organization (ILO) it is estimated that 218 million children between the
ages of five and seven work in developing countries including Burma. Despite that
the military government signed the child rights convention, they continue using
child labor directly or indirectly consistently. Given that the government has
failed their responsibilities to their people, many children have been child laborers
in this region. A lot of children have left school to work for food for their families.
Many children take compulsory duty for their family such as public work and
forced labor. Forced labor is demanded by the SPDC and ceasefire groups. Public
work is demanded by village heads for the village. As for single parents, they face
more difficulties than other families. These parents cannot earn enough them-
selves to support their children going to school. Once children are old enough to
work in the field, their parent takes them out of the school so that they can help
with the cattle and farming.
One parent said that she was very upset about living there because of numerous
taxes and forced labor. She and her husband are not in good health to work hard.
Given this situation, they can only send their eldest son to perform forced labor
and public work. Their son is only 17 years old. The family is depending only on
this son to get food and to fulfill compulsory work such as forced labor and public
work for the village.
Our family is depending on our older son who feeds our family and helps his
father in farm since he drops out the school when he was attending grade (4) last
a few years a go. So he doesnt know how to write or read. But he can support our
family even though he is teenaged. He can go for public work and forced labor for
our family. Neither his father nor me can go for forced labor.270
A lot of children have left school to work for food or to take compulsory duty for
their family. Most children have to work in the fields with their parents instead of
going school. The children have to look after their younger sisters or younger
brothers while their parents go to farm. The children have to do house work
instead of homework such as cooking, carrying water and carrying firewood for
their family. The children do not have extra time to study their lessons outside to
school. For these reasons, although the children go to school, they cannot write
and read well.
Prohibitive School Costs
The Convention of the Rights of the Childs Article 28 says that State parties
should recognize the rights of the child to education with a view towards achiev-
ing this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall, in
particular; set up primary education that is compulsory and available free to all
and encourage the development of different forms of secondary education, includ-
ing general and vocational education, make them available and accessible to every
child and take appropriate measures such as the introduction of free education
and offering financial assistance in case of need and so on.271
There are many laws to promote childrens education and to protect childrens
rights in the Convention of the Rights on the Child. Burma signed The Convention
on the Rights of the Child on July 15, 1991. Yet, the Burmese government is still
ignoring the rights of children. Burma should follow and take responsibilities for
the international conventions to which they have agreed, and the Burmese govern-
ment is obligated to provide free education for primary school students. Burmas
government is not interested in investing in the countrys children. In Burma most
remote areas lack investment in education for primary school age children and
there is widespread poverty. Despite a compulsory education law, almost 40
percent of children never enroll in school, and only 25 to 35 percent complete the 5-
year primary school course. Many families cannot afford to pay the numerous fees
for even a primary school education. 272
The SPDC announces every year that it is illegal to collect money from students
while they are enrolling in school. Although primary education is supposed to be
free for every child the government does not provide enough salary for the
teachers or for school facilities. The SPDC provides each teacher 27000 kyat a
month for their salary. If the number of students increases, then the school com-
mittee collects additional money from the students at the beginning of the school
year. The estimated cost per student is 3,500 kyat per month in this region.
Students must pay for expenses such as compound cleaning, text books, uniforms,
school construction, stationery and enrollment. The enrollment fee is 3000 kyat
per primary studentit is quite expensive and it makes the students parents quite
Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 28.
Report on labor practices in Burma. US Department of Labor / Bureau of International Labor
Affairs, page 88.
The teachers and school committee say every year that they will not collect from
money student enroll. But after that they start to collect money for numerous fees
for the school in reality. So that we feel up set to enroll the children school.273
Burma is in an economic crisis and even stationery prices are every expensive. A
textbook costs about 6000 kyat for a middle school student. A uniform costs at
least 5000 kyat. One writing book costs 250 kyat. For textbooks and uniforms,
parents have to spend more than 12,000 kyat per one student. The cost is terribly
high for parents who have four or five children. If parents do not have enough
income to pay, some of their children have to drop out for a year or longer. Some
parents have more than five school age children. Most families are self-employed
subsistence farmers and must sell their subsistence products, such as rice or
chicken, to raise the income to buy these items. For the above reasons a lot of
school age children are lacking education in the region. The drop-out rate is
unbelievably high, increasing year by year. Most middle students have started to
find jobs instead of going to school in the city. School fees sometimes make it
impossible for a student to go school.
I just worry for the future of my five children and our ability to send them school.
The price is getting very high. I cannot make that much money for my children. I
have five children. Their brains are good enough to get an education but I cannot
afford to send all of them to school. Our family is very poor, too poor to send all of
them to school. I can only send them to school until they get to grade 4 in this
Economic & Extortion Taxes
Before the military and Kachin Independence Army agreed on a ceasefire, at the
end of 1992, the military forcibly relocated the people from nine villages to one of
these three villages. The following year the military and Kachin Independence
Army also signed a ceasefire. After these developments, both the military and
Kachin Defense Army (KDA) based their camp in the middle of the village. Many
people left their plantation lands and properties due to the militarys relocation to
there in 1992.
Then Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Kachin Defense Army (KDA) and Pyi
Thu Sit (militia) also based their camps in this village with the SPDC military
camp. They all collect money and food from the villagers as their rations. But the
military does demand money and food since they agreed to a ceasefire with the
opposition armed group. Now the other three groups the KIA, KDA and militia
armed groups are collecting money, salt and rice as a tax.
At this time the political and economic situation is very complicated and it is
difficult for the villages to make money and have food. The villagers could grow
poppy until 2001. After 2001 the villager cannot grow and sell poppy for their
income. Most people had made money from working on poppy plantations.
The military and ceasefire groups banned growing the poppy plant without
providing a substitution crop. This is a problem for the people because the poppy
plantation is the main livelihood. The people faced a sudden change in their
livelihood. They cannot make money from other jobs. The people from this region
have faced big problems getting food and money to send their children to school.
The villagers economic security and livelihood was broken down immediately. In
this economic situation some people have faced starvation for many years. They
still dont have another job substitute for growing poppy to get food and to make
money for their survival.
We are facing economic crises more and more than before. Not only are there
the expensive food prices but also have to pay numerous high taxes to each armed
group. We are facing problems getting food everyday; we have to do forced la-
bor and public work two or three times per month. Although we do not want to live
in this village anymore we do not have any idea where to move to evade such
abuses as taxes and forced labors.275
The majority of people are deeper in poverty but a few people who deal with the
armed-groups and military are more comfortable than before because they trade
heroin and smuggle everything such as cattle and timber from this region. Smug-
glers do not need to pay taxes to the military and other groups. Ordinary people,
however, the people who do not deal with the military or armed-groups and trade
cattle need to pay high taxes. Sometimes the groups seize their cattle fine them a
large amount of money for trading cattle. Meanwhile, the armed groups partners
are distributing drugs in the village openly.
Each household pays two baskets of rice to the armed groups. One basket of rice is
equal to 48,000 kyat and 5 viss of salt is equal to 6000 kyat in payment of tax. Local
people call these taxes war funds. If the parents did not need to pay taxes they
could support their children to go school instead.
Even though we do not have a good job to make money for our family we could
be in a comfortable life if we did not need to pay tax. But now we need to pay
numerous taxes to each armed groups every year. Sometimes I feel that we are
feeding these armed groups instead of supporting our children to send them to
school. Because we have to pay whatever they demand from us, not only food,
money and our labor, but also even our children have to go to them to be their
Ceasefire groups set up the law for the villages. Every household in this region has
to pay tax to them, if they evade tax or refuse they have to send their children to
armed-groups. They can also seize properties such as farmland, houses and cattle.
We can not live in this region if one person from our family is not involved in armed
group as a soldier. If not, they demand our children three times. After that they
confiscate our properties. Although we do not want to be here the reason that we
are in this village is that we do not have any idea to move somewhere else. As a
result we are feeding four armed groups instead of sending our children to school
If there was no taxation in this region, the children could go to school. Parents have
to expend their money on armed-groups instead of sending their children to
According to the Convention of the Rights of the Child Article 18, the government
has responsibilities to support the parent to send their children to school, and the
parent has a responsibility to send their children to school regularly.278 Most
parents from this region are not encouraging education for their children. In the
parents thinking, the parent is satisfied if the children can farm for the family. The
parents think doing farm work to get food is better than go to school for their
children. They know if they send their children to school they will have to spend a
lot of money for each year.
Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 18.
Some parents said that if their children can write and read it is enough for their
life. They do not know that it is in their childs best interest to send them to school.
The parents only focus on current problems such as how to get food and money
for the family. They do not send their children to school when the child is getting
strong enough to do farm work. If the children drop out school so early in school
age, they will not know the value of education. When they have children they will
also not encourage their childrens education. This lack of education continues
through the generations.
The United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) and the military had
reduced the opium growth 73 percent in 2002. Although Burma has managed to
reduce opium cultivation, widespread poverty, porous borders, limited control
over the border areas and lawlessness all stimulate a thriving unrecorded cross-
border economy.279 In 2002 the opium ban in the region had a significantly detri-
mental effect on the local economy and well being of the local population. Drug
producers bribe armed-groups and the military to produce heroin and metham-
phetamines in this region. The military and armed-groups officers are getting a lot
of money from these drug producers and distributors. Drug issues are the most
difficult to solve for the people from this region and for their local leader. A lot of
families have spread out and divorced due to heroin. The children are becoming
the real drug victims in the families.
Since 2002 there have been no more opium plantations in the region. In last decade,
many business- men based in this region have grown opium and produced heroin.
After 2002 the SPDC and ceasefire groups arrested a lot of individual drug traders
and producers. But some economic groups who cooperate with the ceasefire groups
and the SPDC were still producing heroin until 2005. After 2005 there has been no
more heroin production. However, there are more heroin users than before the
heroin producers left. Ceasefire groups provide security for the drug producers to
trade drugs and to produce. So its very difficult to ban absolutely all drug trading.
One youth said that the military allowed drugs in his village:
We do not notice that the military uses drugs as a weapon to make ethnic people
weak. But, we all know well why the military does not ban both drug use and
distribution in this village. There are more than 30 people using drugs regularly.280
Poisoned Flowers, page 12.
The villages head and the women organizations placed a ban on drugs and
arrested the drug distributors. They try to send the drug sellers to the police but
the drug sellers bribe the military commanders from ka la ya 45 and 312 (Infantry
Battalion). The military commander ordered the women leaders to release the
We have experience. The womens organization of this village organized people
to arrest the drug sellers because drug problem is affects womens daily life. First
they tried to send the drug sellers but the military commander and militia ordered
us to release their people.281
Some childrens parents are using drugs. If their parent does not have the money
for drugs, the children have to make money for their father instead of going
school. Moreover, many children drop out of school due to their parents addic-
tion to drugs. If one person is using drugs in the family, the first victim of drugs is
the children and women. The government has a responsibility to take action on
drug sellers but they ignore this issue. We can see very clearly that the military has
pushed the ethnic people towards drug use so that they would lose power. The
military does not care how about how children lack education in the region. The
military creates ways for the ethnic children to have less opportunity to get
This report explained how children are suffering from a lack of access to education
in the region. The childrens parents have to spend money for taxes instead of
sending their children to school. Additionally, despite that parents are already
struggling to find food for their families, they have to go do forced labor and
public work twice a month. If parents cannot earn enough money for their childrens
schooling, the children have to drop out of school. Making matters worse, parents
are working in the military camp instead of working in the fields to get food for
their family and to send their children to school. If the parent is not able to get food
and not able to work for the family, the children will not be able to go school. The
parents cannot afford to buy school supplies for their children.
When children are as young as nine or ten years old, the parents worry about their
children being taken for conscription. The armed-groups demand the children
from the parents to provide recruitment for child soldiers. The military forces
people to work for their camps and they use the peoples properties as they like.
All of this contributes the childrens lack of education in the region.
The government has a responsibility to provide free education for primary school
aged children. The government had failed their responsibility to educate the
youth. There are not enough teachers, not enough classrooms and there are not
high enough teacher salaries. The government works against the best interest of
the country. Education should always be promoted: There must be education for
all the children in all areas of the country, including remote ones.
To the SPDC and ceasefire groups:
Stop using forced labor.
Stop the plural ruling system.
Stop practicing recruitment of youth under eighteen.
Provide enough teachers and give them adequate salaries.
To promote a permanent middle school.
Protect Human Rights.
Protect the Rights of the Child.
To the International Community:
Investigate human rights abuses by both the SPDC and ceasefire groups.
Push the government to stop abusing childs rights.
Push the government to stop using forced labor.
Push ceasefire groups to stop using child soldiers.
To the teachers of Burma:
Do not discriminate against ethnic children.
Respect the hours of school and teach a full day.
To parents in Burma:
Send all children under eighteen to school.
Do not force children to drop out school.
Give children time to study.
Plan the childrens future.
Encourage the children to go school.
The Impact of the UN Resettlement Program
for Karenni People in Camps #1 and #2
on the Thai-Burma Border
By Mar Ry
Thai-Burma Border Map of the Karenni Refugee Camps
Life in Karenni refugee camps. (Photo by Mar Ry).
The UN resettlement program is good for those who leave. The problems, how-
ever, are for those who remain in the camp. Because of the UN resettlement
program or initiative the current situation in the camp is awful. The program has
had a severe impact on camp management and services. The departure of skilled,
educated and experienced camp program and service providers has generated
concern about how best to mitigate the negative impacts on service delivery to the
remaining camp population.
Thailand is one of the worst places for refugees in the world.282 There are two
Karenni refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border with a total population of
23,838.283 The Karenni refugee camp 1is located in Mae Hong Son territory and
Karenni refugee camp 2 is located in Khum Yum territory. It is 4 or 5 KM away
from Thai-Burma border. Karenni refugees sheltering on the Thai-Burma border
moved there in search of safer accommodation.
All the Karenni refugees in Thailand are considered illegal immigrants by the Thai
authorities and are vulnerable to arrest and deportation at any time if they are
outside the camps. For these reasons, the freedom of movement for the refugees is
very restricted. They cannot leave but there are no opportunities for most people
inside the camp. Some of the Karenni refugees have lived in the camp for more
than 20 years. Moreover, they have no hope to go back to Burma because human
rights abuses are continuing and the political situation in Burma is still unstable.
Bangkok Post (Thailand ranked as one of the worst places), 20 June 2008.
Karenni Refugee Main Committee (pamphlet).
According to the UNHCR, there are three durable solutions for refugees: repatria-
tion, integration, and resettlement.284 It is not possible for Karenni refugees to be
repatriated in Burma due to civil war and human rights abuses. They cannot
integrate and become citizens of Thailand as the Thai authority has not signed or
ratified the convention related to the refugees. Thailand refuses to recognize their
status and will not allow them to stay. The third option is third country resettle-
ment. Since 2005, with the agreement of the Thai government, the UNHCR started
to resettle Karenni refugees in some Western countries. The process is happening
very fast and many Karenni refugees are excited to get a new life and renewed
hope in third countries. The ongoing resettlement from camps in Thailand is
giving Karenni refugees a chance at a durable solution for the first time.
This report proceeds as follows: The first part explains the Karenni refugee back-
ground and current the situation in camp. The second part outlines what the UN
program is and how it affects Karenni society. The third part examines who has
responsibility for the Karenni refugees. Field work for this report was done in
Karenni refugee camps 1 and 2 along the Thai-Burma border in the Mae Hong Son
province. The information was collected through individual interview with UNHCR
representative, camp leaders, youth, and local people and Karenni people who are
already resettled in third countries. Altogether Thirty people were interviewed for
The Karenni State is located in Eastern Burma. Since the Burmese military regime
occupied it in 1948, the Karenni people have been fighting to regain their lost
independence. As a result more than 20,000 Karenni people have fled to neighbor-
ing Thailand where they live as refugees in the northwestern Mae Hong Son
Province. They currently live in two refugee camps: Camp No. 1and No. 2#.
For more than 20 years, Karenni refugees from Burma have been fleeing to
Thailand to seek refuge from the practices of human rights abuse, forced labor,
arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and extrajudicial killing carried out by the
authoritarian regime in Burma. Some of the refugees have lived in the camp for
more than 20 years. Twenty years is a long time in anyones life. It is a very long
time to be a refugee. There is nothing to celebrate when tens of thousands people
have had their lives uprooted and still face a very uncertain future.
Interview with UNHCR representative (Interview 10).
Karenni refugee camp. (Photo by Mar Ry).
Refugee camps are not natural place to live. Basic human rights and freedoms are
not guaranteed there. The Karenni people cannot study, work or travel outside the
camp. Refugees have lost everything in their homeland and carry sad and painful
memories. Camp life is tedious and standard of living in is very basic indeed. And
yet, for over decades refugees from Burma have managed to live in dignity and
hope along this border. They have maintained their communities; they have
managed their own affairs and take care of each other. Refugees build all their
houses and public building in the camps, dig all the ditches and water wells, teach
in the schools, serve as nurses, health workers and home visitors. With a limited
space and few resources the refugee do more than survive - they live. Therefore,
many people contribute the lives of the refugees.
In the camps there are camp committees, section leaders women and other
community organizations who take on the huge responsibilities for the refugees,
usually support or appreciation. And then there are teachers, health workers,
home visitors, security patrols and for TBBC storekeepers and distribution teams
how quietly and responsible carry out their duties month in, month out, year out
also for very little reward.
As the resettlement program gathers momentum and as people prepare to depart
for a new life in third countries for many people resettlement offer renew hope,
opportunities and a permanent solution away from prolong encampment. A
whole new generation has grown up confined within camps and people are
naturally hopeful and curious about the opportunities for life in third country.
There are some reasons why Karenni refugees are resettling. One reason is at
present camp residents are restricted in their movements. Another reason why
Karenni youth want to resettle is because they want to gain more educational
opportunities. Other people want to resettle because they want to be free of the
difficult situation in the refugee camps and in Burma. As the UNHCR reminds the
Karenni refugees in its information brochure for refugees, resettlement is a perma-
The UNHCR Resettlement Program
A refugee, as defined by the refugee is a person who is outside of and unable or
unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of the home country because of
persecution or fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, mem-
bership in a particular social group, or political opinion. They are forced to leave
suddenly and therefore have few possessions.
An American representative explains the UN resettlement program to Karenni people. (Photo by Mar Ry).
The refugee resettlement program is a federally-funded program that provides
cash assistance, medical assistance, health screening, and social services to refu-
gees. Resettlement is one of three durable solutions for refugees:
Our mission is to help refugee to not be refugees forever. Being a refugee should
be a temporary phase of their life. Traditionally, UNHCR puts forward three ways to
help them to get normal life. Firstly is repatriation to their country of origin if condi-
tions improve. The second is integration in the country of first asylum285
- UNHCR Representative to Thailand.
The UNHCR is the only agency with the specific mandate to protect refugees and
help resolve refugee problems worldwide. When people are forced to flee because
of war or prosecution, they turn to UNHCR for immediate assistance. If necessary,
they help refugees settle in another country where they can start a new life.
Resettlement in this context means transferring a refugee from his or her country
of asylum to another country that has agreed to admit that person, to grant them
long-term residence rights and the opportunity to become naturalized citizens.286
Resettlement is usually in an industrialized country with the resources to provide
the requisite support to ease the transition to a new country.
The UNHCR helps refugee people to gain more life guarantee in other countries.
The UNHCR tries do the best thing for refugee people.287 - Karenni Youth
The resettlement program was introduced into Karenni refugee camp 1 and 2 in
2005. In April 2006, Karenni refugees began being resettled in New Zealand and
Finland. In 2006 to 2008, 870 Karenni refugees resettled to New Zealand, Finland,
Australia, Sweden, Norway, Canada and the USA. Karenni people will continue to
resettle in Australia and Finland. The following chart shows the resettlement of
Karenni refugees from camps 1 and 2 between 2008 and 2008:
No. Country <5 >5 Total The update of
1 New Zealand 9 65 74 resettlement in
2 Australia 19 162 181 camp 1 and 2
3 Canada 0 8 8 as of 20/3/
4 Sweden 10 40 50 2008.288
5 Finland 84 438 522
6 American 3 23 26
7 Norway 3 6 9
All total 128 742 870
Interview 10, UNHCR representative.
Green Voices of Youth (2007), ERI.
Interview 3 ( Karenni youth).
Karenni Refugee Main Committee, pamphlet.
Impacts of the Resettlement Program
A whole new generation has grown up confined within camps and people are
naturally hopeful and curious about the opportunities for life in a third country.
Some people have to live in the camp over 20 years. They lived in crowded houses
and ate only what NGOs supported for the refugees.
The UN resettlement program is good for youth to continue their education. Living
in the camp difficult and you cannot go out side the camp. There are only two
camps but it is difficult to communicate with each other. The UN resettlement pro-
gram is the best for youth to look forward and to go outside the camp.289
- Karenni Youth
The resettlement program is a door to see the world and change refugee lives. It is
a good chance for the youth to gain more education opportunities and have access
to higher education. People will have more security and life guaranteed for their
future. The resettlement program is now gathering momentum as thousands of
Karenni refugees interested in the UN resettlement program. (Photo by Mar Ry).
Interview 18, youth in Karenni Refugee Camp 2.
refugees apply for resettlement and prepare to depart for a completely new life in
third countries. They can create what they want and have freedom of movement.
After the UN resettlement program people minds are changed and have raring to
go. And start to know how to find their best way and how to plan their future life.
Their minds are become wide and excited to change their thought.290
- Parent in Karenni Camp
Karenni refugee people in the camp are like birds in a cage. They cannot go outside
the camp and are unaware of the reality of the outside world. Therefore, a resettled
life is better for them now. This is an exciting opportunity for those individuals
and families selected. They have more human rights in third countries. The
resettlement is helping to resolve the overall refugee predicament.
Refugees go to third countries with the realistic prospect of naturalization as citi-
zens of that country. Resettlement offers safety, security, opportunity, new skills,
schooling and basic human rights protection.291
- UNHCR Representative to Thailand.
Resettlement to a third country is one of the solutions for Karenni refugees. The
resettlement provides people with hope for a new life.
Negative Impacts on Those Remaining
The UN resettlement program affects Karenni society both positively and nega-
tively. Since the UN resettlement program was introduced into the Karenni refu-
gee camp in 2005, with the agreement of the Thai government, the UNHCR started
to resettle Karenni refugee camps a long Thai-Burma border to some western
countries. The process is happening very fast and many Karenni refugees are very
excited to go and prepare to depart for a new life and renewed hope in third
Before resettlement became an option on the border- the Karenni refugees had a
long-standing dream of returning home. But the event of resettlement marks a
break from this dream.
Interview 8, parent who wants to resettle.
Interview 10, UNHCR representative.
The Thai government has allowed for the resettlement of Karenni refugees, giving
them a chance at a durable solution for the first time. But while resettlement is a
positive development for those chosen, there remains concern for the fate of those
who have not yet been resettled. Most of people in the Karenni refugee camps are
concerned about what will happen for them.
Resettlement has led to a disproportionate number of skilled workers leaving
certain camps. The largest group to leave is teachers, followed by health workers
and those in leadership roles. International and local NGOs working in the camp
have found it difficult to replace staff, especially medics and teachers.
Most of people in the camp want to resettle and constantly discuss the UN
resettlement program. The youth especially want to resettle as they cannot even
leave the camp. The only way they see that they can be more free is through
resettlement. Most of youth in the camp see renewed hope, opportunities and a
permanent solution away from prolonged encampment. Examples of youth opin-
I am interested to go because nothing to change for me to stay in the camp. I
have been in refugee camp over 15 years also can not go back. I do not have life
guarantee and no rights in the camp.292
After the UN resettlement program especially youth did not want to study and
most of the services interesting to resettle. The process makes people excited and
most service less responsibility for their community. I also have unstable situation
and I sign out from teacher.293
- Karenni Youth
Another negative impact of the resettlement program is a break down in the social
fabric of the community, breakdown of the cohesion of family life. Some couples
have asked for divorced papers. Some couples did not have problems or conflicts
before the program started, but now they are in conflict. According to the UNHCR,
the situation in camp is unstable. Our leaders also did not have decision making
and no one interfere who want to apply and resettle in third countries.
Interview 4, youth in Karenni Refugee Camp 1.
Today a new mood of resettlement fever pervades the camps, generating hope
and anticipation but also concerns about separation from community and home-
land. Since the Burmese military regime occupied it in 1948, the Karenni people
have been fighting to regain their lost independence. The Karenni National Pro-
gressive Party (KNPP) do not want to give up on their struggle. If the people are
resettled internationally then it maybe difficult to maintain solidarity against the
SPDC. People fear for the worst:
I have concerned if most people left, people who remain in the camp what will
happen for us? Will force us to go back or stay in Thailand. Have many concern
- Parent Remaining in Camp
We are remaining in the camp, we have many concern about our security, our
livelihood. What will happen and people will continue support us or not? I do know
not anything about the situation but I have many concerns.295
Parent Remaining in the Camp
The UN resettlement programs process impacts the youth, students, and teach-
ers. Some students have become less interested in studying and most teachers
have hoped to resettle including me. The result is an unstable situation for educa-
- Karenni High School Teacher
The UN resettlement program has in fact worsened education in the camp. Some
of the experienced teachers and educators left, so new teachers are needed. There
are thousand of students in the Karenni refugee camps. There are not enough
teachers for students. It is difficult to replace the teachers because the salary of
teacher in the camp is very low. Even if a replacement teachers, many of them may
not stay for long before they apply for resettlement.297
The loss of teachers also has to impact on the students. Some new teachers do not
have teaching experience and have not finished University. Some students are less
interested to study and also some of parents are not encouraging their children to
Interview 20, parent.
Interview 26, parent.
Interview 6, high school teacher in Camp 1.
Interview 5, Secretary, Karenni Refugee Camp 1.
study. Instead, they focus only on resettlement. These are the problems that the
resettlement program creates in the education system for the community that is
I see some of students had already interviewed and finished medical checking
but they do not know yet when will resettle in third countries. Some students have
thought and are interested to resettle so they are not interesting to study anymore
in the current situation. They are just waiting for the date to go in third countries.298
Some of students have already interviewed and medical checking but they do not
know when they will go. One of the students who are waiting for to go said the
I had already interviewed and finished to medical checking but I do not know
exactly when will go. I am so embarrassed and excited. In my thought I only know
have to resettle in third country.299
- Karenni Youth
Resettlement also presents other dilemmas, such as the short and intermediate
impacts on the remaining camp populations. The impact of the departure of
disproportionate numbers of the most educated skilled and experienced staff from
camp services, programs and leadership. All stakeholders report concerns about
the loss of these skilled staff, especially from the key sectors of health. Half of the
medics are scheduled to depart for resettlement, presenting short-term problems
for health programs struggling to keep up with training of replacements as well as
longer-term concerns about finding sufficient staff from an already limited pool of
the educated and skilled camp population.300
Health services workers are interest to apply because they will likely be chosen.
Some other services are less interest to work. Those with good experience for work
really want to go. I am concerned that if we have one kind of disease come in our
community, we do not have enough experienced medics to deal with the situa-
Interview 17, teacher, Camp 2.
Interview 19, youth in Camp 2 with access to resettlement.
In the shadows of the Thai Burma Border: East Asias Foremost Refugee Crisis.
Some of medics and experience service providers have already resettled. The
proportion of educated workers in the camps is so small that this is expected to
have a major impact on camp management, community services and assistance
projects supported by NGOs. International and local NGOs working in the camps
have found it difficult to replace staff, especially medics and nurses.
Before the UN resettlement program in our health department we had policy, if a
medic have finished the medical training, should work in community five years.
But now we can not control them any more. We change the policy if finished train-
ing, have to work two years. We try to explain them to understand our current
situation. We request them to do the best until they left.302
- Health Care Coordinator
Some community-based organizations (CBOs) in the camp maintain that resettling
countries have initiated little dialogue with them, which has created misgivings
about the resettlement process. Also our leaders in the camp do not have decision
making for this process and can not forbid who want to resettle.
Interference by Thai Government
Despite the good intentions of the resettlement program, the Thai authority delays
and interferes with those who want to resettle in third countries. The authorities
refused to let Kayah (long neck) to resettle in third countries. Because the long
necks are very popular among tourist and have not lived in the largely sealed off
refugee camps, a fact the Thai authorities are now using to suggest they are
economic refugees rather than political ones. Some of lady took off their coils in
anger. Some people want to resettle including their ring. They dont want to take
off that is their culture. Long Neck (Kayah) women who take off coils said the
When I stay here in the village, they make money from tourists, and I dont like
that. I dont want to earn money from other people. I want to get my own educa-
tion, work by myself and own by myself. I take off my rings so they will let me go to
Thailand Long Neck women (Advertisement, 12 January 2008).
The Thai government interferes with people confirmed for resettlement by the
UNHCR as well. Some of families have been approved but the Thai authorities do
not permit them.
May 29, 2008 is the last day of my visa to arrive. Some of my friend have already
left. We remain four families including my family. I have to leave on December
2007 or January 2008 because of that reason, but I have not left. I have to resettle
in Australia. I started to apply the UN resettlement program in 2006. I have to wait
over two years to resettle until now.304
Family Accepted for Resettlement
Why the Thai authority not allow some people to resettle because of technical
registration matters. Some people have registered with the UN as living in camp
2but they have been living in camp 1#. So they denied them resettlement.
I got the news and accept the letter from the UNHCR and MOI (Ministry of the
Interior). On May 15, 2007 is the date to go. But the Thai authority did not sign for
me. I felt so upset and got depressed. They informed me that I am registered in
camp #2. Because of that they do not allow my family to go. And than I request
back to stay in camp 2and the UN said they will try for me. But I have waited one
year with no information. When knew the date I have to go, I sold all my properties
and gave other. What should I do? Everything is gone. No home.305
Another reason is the case happened on December 16, 2007 the Thai authorities
and local people in camp 1had conflict each other. One of Karenni students was
killed by the Thai authorities. Some students became angry and destroyed the Thai
authority camp. The Thai authorities want to know who participated and lead the
problems. They do not allow the people to resettle and to go outside the camp.
Some people scheduled for resettlement must now wait. The UNHCR is not
independent of the Thai Authority, requiring permission to do anything.
In fact, most countries still want to keep their doors open to Karenni refugees, but
the Thai authorities are increasingly limiting the opportunities for the Karenni.
The Thai authorities should allow for resettlement.
Interview 2, a family who has access to resettlement.
Interview 9, a family who has access to resettlement.
The Thai authority should not forbid us to resettle. They do not want refugee to
stay their country any more so should give refugee chance to resettle in other
countries. Thai authority should have humanitarian.306
Some people who love their country they do not want to resettle in other countries
and do not want to stay in Thailand the whole life. But they can not go back in
Burma because the political situation is unstable. So they do not know exactly
what should do and what will happen for them in the future. The leadership is
gone and the hope for Karenni repatriation is dispersing.
Because of the UN resettlement program, we can not promote repatriation as a
goal. Because we got short time to lobby the pubic and cannot forbid the people
who want to resettle. We face problems to go back in Burma and not easy to
continue stay in Thailand.307
Responsibility for Refugees
The human rights abuses by the SPDC are the main cause of refugees fleeing
Burma. The SPDC do not protect, promote or fulfill the human rights of the ethnic
group. The SPDC forces people to relocate. The result is a refugee flow to other
countries. The failure of the SPDC causes the problems that Thailand and the
international community must now deal with. Amnesty International notes:
The rights of refugees and basic human rights are inextricably linked. Todays
human rights abuses are tomorrows refugee movements.308
Thai Government Obligations
Thailand has not ratified the 1951 Refugee convention and does not recognize the
status of refugees. As a result, asylum seekers are not distinguished from other
immigrants, legal or illegal. The Thai government asserts that it applies humani-
tarian conditions and observes the 1951 Convention in practice. Thailand is a state
party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and to its First,
but not Second, Optional Protocol.309
Interview 4, a youth who wants to go.
Interview 15, KNPP leader.
Amnesty International Publications ( United Kingdom).
www.reliefweb.int/rw/RWB.NSF/db900SID/EKOI 75D873?Open Document
ICCPR article 12 (1) everyone lawfully
within the territory of a state shall,
within that territory, have the rights
to liberty of movement and freedom to
choose his residence: Everyone stay-
ing in Thailand has the right to free-
dom of movement and to choose resi-
dence including Burmese refugees on
the Thai-Burma border. No need to
forbid refugees wanting to go and re-
settle in third countries.
Thai authority gate outside Karenni refugee camp 1.
UDHR article 13 (1) everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence
within the borders of each state: Under the UDHR article 13 (1) explain and show
Thailand is also member of the UHDR and have to follow what they done and
should assist everyone who stay in Thailand. Therefore, the Thai authority has an
obligation for everyone who stays in Thailand. They have to give everyone right to
freedom of movement. But freedom of movement outside the camp is limited for
UDHR article 15 (1) everyone has the right to a nationality: Everyone who stays
in Thailand should have right to a nationality. The Thai government should freely
allow for Burmese refugee people to resettle in third countries. The Thai govern-
ment also has obligation to protect people who stay in Thailand
The UNHCR obligations: The UN set up a body that would, as much as possible,
operate independently. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR) started work on January 1, 1951, and was given a mandate to
operate for three years. It was to work independently but with all the authority.
This would enable it to work with governments to ensure fair treatment and
international protection for all refugees. 310
The UNHCR must take steps to insure that detained Burmese refugees who
identify themselves to the agency have access to international protection and will
never be forcibly returned. UNHCR should make more frequent visits to the
border to directly assess conditions there. Local NGOs also have responsibility for
refugee and have to participate with the UNHCR and creation of workable frame-
work and practices to enhance refugees protection.
United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (Jean Trier).
Refugee camps are not natural places to live in. Refugee camps do not have the
freedom to study, work, and travel. Refugees have lost everything in their homelands
and carry with them sad and painful memories. Camp life is tedious and the standard
of living in this camp is very basic indeed. And yet, for more than twenty years
refugees from Burma have managed to live with hope along Thai-Burma border. In
reality the situation in the camp is very restricted and is not a normal life. Without
charity the refugee camps are unsustainable. The refugee camps are in remote border
areas where there are many armed elements. The refugees are vulnerable and abuses
inevitably occur. Over the years the refugees have faced many emergencies including
armed attacks on refugee camps and natural disasters such as flooding.
What will happen if Karenni people continue living in the camp without any
change? Most people in the camp are illiterate and cannot do anything for them-
selves and always need someones help. The youths development in the camp is
stunted through a lack of contact with the outside world. They are unaware of the
daily political, economic, and social situations unfolding around them. Without
change, generation after generation will be unlikely to realize its potential.
The best option is repatriation to their land in Burma. But for the Burmese refugees
in Thailand, repatriation is not viable due to insecurity and violence continuing in
Burma. Thailand remains unwilling to facilitate local integration in the form of
legal status and residency rights. UNHCR resettlement can play a positive role in
opening up possibilities to improve local conditions for the remaining refugees,
such as areas of livelihood and education. The UN resettlement program is a
progressive step by the UNHCR to address the entrenched refugee situation in
Thailand. But there are still serious concerns for those people who remain in the
camp. The camp situation is unstable. People are less and less interested to work in
their community and communal unity is eroding.
According to the Bangkok Post the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has recognized
an improvement in Thailands refugee policy, the U.S Committee for Refugee and
Immigrants (USCRI) viewed that refugee rights were still not well-protected here.
The UNHCR, however, shared NGO concerns that no major progress has been
made in development of self-reliance, and access to the labor market and opportu-
nities for higher education, which are still limited.311 Permanent camps are not an
Bangkok Post (Thailand ranked as one of worst places), 20 June 2008.
Burma authorities must end the abuses which have forced the refugees to flee to
Stop the civil war and take the reconciliation with the ethnic groups.
Grant the refugee increased freedom of movement, more job opportunities
outside the camps.
Allow UNHCR, international and local NGOs to inform and update refugees on
the resettlement process.
Ensure that all Burma refugees wishing to apply for asylum have the practical
means to do so and are not barred from making such application by Thai local
Ensure the resettlement process of Karenni refugees is transparent
Ensure that impacts on the local community are taken into consideration.
Encourage the Thai government to allow increased freedom of movement for
Burma refugee in Thailand.
Enhance UNHCRs protection capacity in the refugee camps in order to help
ensure that refugees in the camp receive adequate protection and assistance, and
access to UNHCR.
Karenni leaders and Karenni people
Coordinate with UNHCR to make the program a better process.
Advocate so the public understands process and have critical thinking about it.
Karenni people already resettled to third counties
Encourage people who remain in the camps.
Express the Karenni situation to other countries.
Maintain national responsibility wherever you stay and go.
Hungry for Education:
Villagers Living in Ceasefire Controlled Areas
Struggle To Educate Their Children
in Boo Tho Township, Papun District
By Day Day
Map of Meh Bpa Area, Bu Tho Township, in Papun District
Historically, people living in rural areas of Burma place little value on formal
education. Most people believe that with or without formal education, people can
live and are able to eat. Access to education in Burma is often impossible for those
people who live in the rural and mountainous areas. Given the political situation,
ethnic conflict and that the country has been ruled by a military dictatorship for
almost half of the century, very little attention has been paid to education. A major
portion of the revenue villagers in the Meh Bpa area get is given to the military for
their expenses and only a small percentage is available to use for education. It is
common in Burma for schools to be found in big towns or cities. In the remote
areas of the country, however, the schools are very small and unstable. These
schools are only able to survive because the community works hard to establish
and maintain them.
This report explains the struggle for education in the Meh Bpa area of Butho
Township, Papun District. People struggle for education even in this conflict area
because they feel that without education it is even more difficult to earn a living.
In this report, the education situation in Meh Bpa will be explained in five parts.
The first part of the report provides the background of Meh Bpa and describes its
location, natural resources and the people. In part two, the civil war between the
DKBA and KNU in the Meh Bpa area is described. The third part describes how
conflict affects education and includes forced relocation, security and poverty. In
the fourth part, the effects of lack of education on families, health and occupation
are looked at. The final part looks at how people try to struggle for an education
even though they have hardships. It includes the reasons for their struggle for an
education and the way the Karen Teacher Working Group (KTWG) supports the
schools with stationery and teachers salaries.
The research focuses on how villagers currently try to struggle and plan for the
education of their children. Information was collected on the internet before field
work was done. Field work was done in the Meh Bpa area of Butho Township,
Papun District. Three villages in the area were visited. Village heads and villagers
were interviewed about the school, the occupational background of the villagers
and relocations that happened because of the conflict between the KNU and the
DKBA. One of the activists from Meh Bpa village was also interviewed about the
past political situation and the current situation concerning the education policy
and the plans for a primary school. The secretary of the KTWG was also inter-
viewed about the groups activities, policy, purpose and plans for the future,
especially about the Meh Bpa area. Information was also obtained from the staff of
the Karen Organization for Relief and Development (KORD). An activist from
Papun District also helped with a lot of information about the situation in the
district including the political link to dams along the Salween River and informa-
tion on villagers occupations and forced relocation.
Background of Education in Burma
According to Universal Declaration of Human Rights in article 25(1), Everyone has
the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental
stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education
shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on
the basis of merit.
Section 20 of the 1993 Law of the Child says, Every child shall have the right to free
basic primary education in state and that the Ministry of Education shall implement a
system of free and compulsory primary education
The Ministry of Education shall
implement arrangements for children, who are unable for various reasons, to attend schools
opened by the state. Burma signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
in August 1991.
In reality there is no free education and the SPDC extorts money and building
supplies for the schools from the local community. In some communities the
schools are founded by Buddhist monasteries, other religious groups or privately
funded by villagers.312
In rural or conflict areas, villagers themselves have to build the schools and hire
teachers at their own expense. In some rural areas there is only one primary school
for five villages. In some conflict or border areas there is no school and the only
choice for the poor is the monastery schools which only give a primary education.
Even where there are schools, there are not enough teachers or stationery. The
students have to use slates and chalk, but this is also not enough for their studies.313
http://www.bnionline.net/index.php?option com content&task view&id 1606&Itemid 8
Some areas under the control of the KNU are supported by the KNU Education
When the students finish primary school, it is often impossible to continue to
secondary school because they need to help to provide for their families. In some
placed under the control of the SPDC, students in secondary school have to face
forced labor and other abuses.314
According to Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging
to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of
their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use
their own language.
Burma did not sign this article and there is no right or respect for teaching
minority languages. It is discouraged and in many cases forcibly prevented. Even
in areas where there is a Karen community and all the Karen are under the control
of the SPDC of a ceasefire group, they are limited in their ability to study the Karen
language and all the lessons must be conducted in Burmese.315 However, in some
places under the control of the KNU or DKBA they can study the Karen language
but only on weekends and in summer classes. In DKBA areas they study Karen in
some schools and in KNU schools they always study Karen.
Background of Meh Bpa Area
Papun District is called Mu Traw in Karen. It shares a border with Karenni State in
the north, to the west with Pegu Division and Mon State and in the east with
Thailands Mae Hong Son province. The KNU administration divides the district
into three townships; Luthaw, Dwehlo and Butho in accordance with the three
mountains ranges running through Papun District from north to south. The Butho
range forms the major part of the western bank of the Salween River on the Karen
State border.316 The Meh Bpa area is in Butho Township, Papun District. It is also
near the Hat Gyi upper dam project site on the Salween River. This township is
situated along the Thai- Burma border where the Salween River flows and to the
Damming at Gunpoint, Karen Rivers Watch, November 2004, page 30.
south is Paan Township. 317 To the SPDC, Meh Bpa is located in Papun Township
of Karen State.
Most of the people of Meh Bpa are Sgaw Karen and they all are Buddhist. Most of
them are farmers who use shifting cultivation, and mostly grow food for their own
consumption.318 Before the Burmese government introduced the Four Cuts policy
in 1979 in Papun District the people who lived there farmed peacefully and with
security. Their hearts were in the land they had inherited from their parents and
grandparents. The land was good for cultivation and there was good weather and
clean water. The Four Cuts are aimed at cutting off support for the insurgents by
depriving them of supplies, funding, intelligence and recruits.
However, after the time of 1979, Burma soldiers came and spread their camps
through out the Papun district because Burma military introduce their four cut is
policy and became fighting with KNU to control and occupy this district. In
addition, after the fall of Manerplaw in 1995 the conflict between DKBA and KNU
started and the villagers had to face fear and hardships in their lives until now.319
Conflict in the Meh Bpa Area
In May 1989, the Burmese military regime formed the Development of Border
Areas and National Races Committee (DBANR), and it began carrying out its
Border Area Development (BAD) program. Their purpose is to sell natural re-
sources to neighboring countries. This program also focuses on large infrastruc-
ture projects in ethnic areas. Most of the budget is for roads and bridges and little
is directed to health and education. These projects have only been agreed with the
ceasefire groups and not with the KNU.320
During 1994, a Buddhist monk, U Thuzana, separated from the KNU and formed
the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA). This resulted in the fall of
Manerplaw in 1995. Afterward, most of the villagers in Meh Bpa were relocated to
the DKBA headquarters at Myaing Gyi Ngu town, near Ka Ma Maung.
http://18.104.22.168/search?q cache:1H5QWYS5xSQJ:www.freewebs.com/krw reports
Interviews 1 11.
The plight of Internally Displaced Karen in the Mu Traw District of Burma, Karen IDPs Report,
Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People, Friedrich Naumann Foundation, December
2000, page 3. http://burmalibrary.org/docs3/CIDKP Mutraw2000.ocr.pdf
Damming at Gunpoint, page 21.
The SPDC and the DKBA are very interested in logging in the Meh Bpa area.
Logging has been done in the area since the British colonial time. Logs were
floated downstream on the Salween River. In 1983 the KNU began to sell logging
concessions to Thai companies on the Salween River bank. The KNU was able to
earn money from them. The SPDC wanted to occupy and control this area to
control the logging.
Another reason why the SPDC wants to control the area is for the construction of
hydropower dams on the Salween River. From 1992 onwards, the SPDC started to
spread their military camp in a step by step campaign to control the Papun area
near the Salween River. This is also the reason why the military created the civil
war between the DKBA and the KNU.
Impacts of Conflict on Education
All of the villages in Butho Township were relocated during 1996 due to the
conflict between the DKBA and KNU. Villages under the control of the DKBA had
to relocate to Myaing Gyi Ngu. Later, after DKBA had more control, most of the
villagers in the Meh Bpa area were allowed to go back to their own villages. Some,
however, were not allowed to go back.
In Meh Bpa area there was a monastery school in Meh Ker Kyaw village until 10th
standard and a primary school in Ger Kee Htu village. After the civil war started,
there were no more schools. The school in Ger Kee Htu village was destroyed.
This was because most of the villagers were forced to relocate. There was no
support for them after they came back to their villages. They had to start their
farms and there were no animals or material to build their fields. They were
unable to think about a school, they could only think about how to survive from
day to day.
In 2005-07, the DKBA came and built a primary school for the villagers which had
a few teachers for the many children in the Meh Bpa area. However, they really
only wanted to do logging. After they began logging they were no longer inter-
ested in sustainably running the school.
Lack of Education
Without education, parents cannot manage the health of their families. They
cannot guarantee nutritious food, discipline their children in the right way and do
not have any thought on how to create a healthy environment. Their economic
situation also cannot improve because their fields are not worked well. They also
have no knowledge about politics and must live as their leaders dictate.
Impacts on Families
Most of the teenagers are getting married early without any preparation and have
Most of the children they cannot go to school, so they spend their time helping
their parents in the fields or taking care of younger brothers or sisters. They do not
get much parental care.
Children need to have nutritious food for good health from their parents. How-
ever, they cannot get it because their parents are uneducated about health and
which foods are nutritious for their families. They do not know how to wash the
food, prepare it properly and do not cover it to protect it from flies.
Most of the villagers have boils and skin diseases because of unclean and inad-
equate water. In addition, they do not have toilets. Many of the children get
cholera and the old people get diarrhea. Many people also get malaria because
they do not use mosquito nets.
Parents who are educated can support their children and help with lessons and
homework. Uneducated parents cannot help even though their children try hard
in their studies. One old woman had only a 3rd standard education, so she could
check her daughters 2nd stan-
dard homework and do it to-
gether with her daughter. She
can read and write Karen, Bur-
mese, English a little and could
help in mathematics a bit. How-
ever, she had forgotten many
things and some of the lessons
had changed so it was difficult
for her to help her daughter. She
wanted her daughter to con-
tinue studying, but she did not
know what to do.
Young lady with her baby. Another child has to take care
of her younger brother instead of her parents.
(Photo by Day Day).
Economy & Politics
There are many natu-
ral resources in the
Meh Bpa are the
people could use to
improve their lives.
Due to a lack of educa-
tion, however, they do
not know what to do
for economic growth
and most of what they
produce is used for do-
They have a rich land
to grow foods on.
They can get 60 bas- Mountain cultivation field near the Salween River. (Photo by Day Day).
kets (one basket
46lbs). In reality, they get only 40 or 50 baskets from their fields. Their yield is
lower because there is not training or people to advise or guide them on how to
work their fields.
There has not been a school since the British colonial times. The people did not
have a strong interest in education or knowledge of why education is important.
They believed that they could live and have enough to eat even without education.
When the school was built in Meh Bpa from 2005-07, they started to become more
broadminded about education and encourage their children to attend the school.
Unfortunately, this school only ran for two years because there was no teacher and
it did not receive any support from the DKBA leaders. The DKBA also did not
allow them to get help from any other organization. They now have to build up
the school themselves and make their own plans for education.
A meeting was held between three village heads, an activist and a leader from the
KNU in Bu Tho township to organize the school. They decided to try to make a
connection with the Karen Teacher Working Group (KTWG) to support the school.
They all agreed that although the
village was under the control of
the DKBA, it was under the con-
trol of the KNU in regards to edu-
They decided that if there was a
primary school in their village the
children could attend secondary
school in Meh La Oo refugee camp
after they finished their studies.
They felt that the education under
School at Meh Bpa. (Photo by Day Day).
the KNU was better than under
the DKBA or SPDC because of the
lack of teachers, salaries and school fees. 322 The DKBA leaders have decided to
allow them to accept the help of outside organizations like the KTWG.
Karen Teacher Working Group
The KTWG works together with the Karen Education Department (KED). The
organization was founded in 1997 and their objectives are: (1) Karen schools
should always be organized and supported at the community level under the
guidance of the Karen Education Department. (2) Poverty caused by war has made
it impossible for communities to provide for teachers and students. They sup-
ported all seven KNU districts of Karen State under KNU control. Their goal is to
help teachers meet their basic living needs, allowing them to remain in their
positions as teachers. They will support Meh Bpa village for stationary and a
teachers salary. However they could not find a teacher because that area is under
DKBA control and they are worried about the teachers security. 323
In Burma, education is still limited in access not only in the Meh Bpa area of Papun
district but in all the rural areas. Only people who live in towns or cities and have
parents who have some money can get a good education. Since the time of General
Ne Win in 1962 till now, education in Burma has become worse. Since the SPDC
came to power they have only focused on primary education.
Interviews 5 and 10 12.
Interviews 1,5, and 10 11.
Interview 13, Secretary of KTWG.
Students have no rights to give their suggestion, opinions, or to choose interesting
subjects and have to read difficult books and do not understand the meaning of
their lessons especially for the ethnic people because most of the subjects are in
Most of the people in conflict areas have limited access to education. Some of the
villages have to depend on monasteries and in some areas there are five villages
with only one primary school with a few teachers and not enough stationery.
Even most of the rural people have a difficult struggle with education. They
continue to find ways to get education because they believe that without it their
lives will be more and more difficult.
It is the time for the opposition groups and NGOs to think about this and try to
help the people who hunger for education. All of our ethnic leaders need to
promote our people to become educated and to maintain their traditions and
To the State Peace and Development Council
Respect and follow International Human Rights law (UDHR) and the Conven-
tion on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
Maintain free education in all places with unbiased educational programmers all
over Burma and reopen all universities unconditionally.
Allow NGO activities in education in education in every place.
To the international community
Pressure the SPDC to respect and follow the UDHR and CRC law.
To the International or Local NGOs
Give more support for education in Burma not just only inside urban areas but
also to the rural people and also including in conflict areas.
Do not only support training for teachers but also include enough stationary and
enough teachers salary.
Make follow up visits to all the project areas and evaluate the weaknesses of the
Negative Impacts of Jade Mining on Women
in Hpakant, Kachin State
Map of Kachin State
Jade mining in the Hpakant district of the Kachin State has had negative impacts
on womens rights. The profits from the jade mining are not used for local devel-
opment and are instead taken by private companies who work with the State
Peace and development Council (SPDC). Womens issues are not considered
important and are put second behind economic growth and private profits.
As a result of jade minings development, women have suffered social problems
and human rights abuses. As a result of mining activities, the local community has
suffered loss of livelihoods and land. They depended on hunting and farming.
Many of their husbands are not miners so they do not work in the mines and
benefit from their development. Consequently, women have had to earn an in-
come for the family.
Most women are trying hard to work everyday. Despite their domestic work and
family responsibilities, they feel disempowered. Most men insist that women cant
do anything and are dependent on their husband. They dont want their wives to
earn an income and the wives generally agree. The jade mine operations are
forcing women to go against their traditional roles. This has caused relationship
problems as women feel powerless against their husbands.
Burma has signed the UN convention on the political rights of Women (1952)324
and in 1997325, Burma ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms
of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) but the SPDC has failed to imple-
ment policy according to their international obligations. They dont provide sup-
port or promote the rights of women, including health, education and employ-
ment, around the jade mining area in the Hpakant district in the Kachin State.
This report is based on research conducted in Hpakant in Kachin State as well as
books and documents. Interviews were conducted with local people including
women; jade mine workers, youth, church leaders, businessmen. The report pro-
ceeds as follows: In part I land confiscation and the loss of livelihoods in Hpakant
are examined. The SPDC and the mining companies have confiscated local peoples
lands, farm, field and villages forcing relocation of some communities. People
Burma and the Role of Women, Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN BURMA),
September 1997, page 1.
Gathering Strength (Women from Burma on their Rights), Brenda Belak, January 2002,
Images Asia, page 11.
have not received adequate compensation from either the companies or the SPDC.
The close cooperation of the mining companies with the SPDC has ensured that
they have many privileges and operate above the rule of law. In part II the report
examines the negative affects of these operations on womens human rights. This
includes the violation of health rights in dealing with HIV+AIDS, narcotics and
prostitution. This is a major problem for women in Hpakant where - due to the
jade mining operations - drugs, prostitution and HIV+AIDS are prevalent.
World famous jade is extracted from the Hpakant region of the Kachin State in
Northern Burma. The Hpakant is 60 miles from Myitkyina city the capital of
Kachin State. Hpakant is very peaceful with many forests, mountains, farms, and
rich natural resources. Most of people are ethnic Kachin. They lead simple lives as
hunters or farmers before the arrival of large scale jade mining operations.
Local people mined jade by hand until 1989. They did not use machines, only
traditional crowbar-like iron posts, iron hooks, and spades, etc. But in February
1994, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) entered into a ceasefire with the State
Peace and Development Council (SPDC). This began a cycle of human and envi-
ronmental abuse. The SPDC built the infrastructure for jade mining development.
Their development projects are not for the benefit of local people. Instead, it
benefits the military and government leaders. During Hpet Sat period between
1994 and 1999, local and Chinese investments mined with small machines. After
2000 the big companies arrived with large scale mining agendas. The Chinese
investment cooperates with the SPDC to increase exploitation of local resources.
Local people have lost their livelihoods.
Land Confiscation & Loss of Livelihood
Womens participation in decision is important in any development project. Seek-
ing to ensure their access may raise such issues as title to land, and credit and
banking facilities, as well as the provision of information and advice about new
technology and technical training. In projects not dealing directly with women, it
may be important to avoid any aggravation of their situation in this respect.326
Women do not participate in jade mining projects in Hpakant. The SPDC did not
consult women during the decision making process. The purpose of development
is to consolidate economic and political power, not local human development.
Women and Human Rights (1993) Katarina Tomasevski, Zed Books Ltd.
The problem of land confiscation
started in 1994 when Chinese com-
panies and local investors arrived
in the Hpakant area. Land confis-
cation increased after 2000. The
local people had to relocate their
villages and houses for the jade
mining operations. The jade min-
ing companies who cooperate
with SPDC are confiscating the
land without justification or com-
Myanmar (Burma) Ministry of Minerals and mining
companies cooperate in operating Lung Khan jade mining pensation. Women and children
sites. (Photo by Cindy). are disproportionately affected by
land confiscation. They find it dif-
ficult to live in strange places and impossible to get new jobs. Women are having
difficulty to survive due to the negative impact of jade mining.
One of women said, My house was moved to other place on July 2006 because
of jade mining. Im not happy now; the weather is so hot and all of trees and moun-
tains are gone. I have no job and Im doing domestic work every day. My husbands
income is unstable. He is not a miner and does not work at the mine.327
The SPDC is violating the land rights of people in the region. The Universal
Declaration of Human Rights states in Article 17 that: (1) everyone has the right to
own property alone as well as in association with others. (2) No one shall be
arbitrarily deprived of his property.328 Likewise, the International Covenant on
Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR): Article 11 explains that, Every-
one has the right to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family,
including adequate food, clothing and housing. Everyone has the right to be free
International law experts Trimble and Carter explain that, The Universal Decla-
ration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and
all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping
this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to
promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures,
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 17, www.udhr.org/UDHR/default.htm
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ( ICESCR).
Jade mining area. (Photo by Cindy).
national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and
observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the
peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.330 The UDHR applies to all 193
members of the United Nations, including Burma. Burma should respect, promote
and protect the rights contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and
also The International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
Burma has signed and ratified the Convention on the elimination of discrimina-
tion against women (CEDAW). Countries that have ratified or acceded to the
Convention are legally bound to put its provisions into practice. They are also
committed to submit national reports, at least every four years, on measures they
have taken to comply with their treaty obligations. By accepting the Convention,
States commit themselves to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination
against women in all forms, including:
Universal Declaration of Human rights, 10 December 1948, UNGA Res. 217 (III), 1948.
to incorporate the principle of equality of men and women in their legal system,
abolish all discriminatory laws and adopt appropriate ones prohibiting discrimi-
nation against women;
to establish tribunals and other public institutions to ensure the effective protec-
tion of women against discrimination; and
to ensure elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons,
organizations or enterprises.
Article 3 of CEDAW states that, States Parties shall take in all fields, in particular
in the political, social, economic and cultural fields, all appropriate measures,
including legislation, to en sure the full development and advancement of women,
for the purpose of guaranteeing them the exercise and enjoyment of human rights
and fundamental freedoms on a basis of equality with men.
Nevertheless, the evidence presented in this report points to the fact that the SPDC
dont follow their obligations under CEDAW and they are violating human rights
Local people have lost their lands, farms and houses because of the cooperation
between the companies and the SPDC. The men are working finding jade in the
tailings from the mining sites. This is unreliable and dangerous work. Sometime
they cant locate the jade and therefore receive no income which, means they cant
eat. This causes a variety of local problems. Previously, women lived in harmony
with the forest and lived a sustainable and subsistence existence. By contrast,
women now find it difficult to live this way. They can no longer find firewood,
water and other food from the forest because of jade mining activities. To make
matters worse, the jade mine companies dont accept women as employees. There
is no plan for womens employment or skills training in the region. The SPDC has
failed its responsibility and is violating womens human rights.
Womens husbands can no longer support their family and therefore women must
take on additional responsibility. Before the extensive jade mining began, women
were able to cultivate their fields. One local women said, I grew enough veg-
etables and fruit on my farm for our family and neighbors before. But now I cant
farm because the SPDC confiscated our land. My husband is not a miner so I
havent any income. I have been facing a problem to support my childrens
Women carry pig feed from the forest. (Photo by Cindy).
The loss of livelihoods has negative impacts on young women especially as they
can no longer concentrate on their education. One eighteen year old women
explained: Now I cant study because my father died my mother is sick. I must do
all our housework and work as a house keeper for others to earn 30,000 per month.
I am so tired.332 She has no chance for education. She is cooking washing, clean-
ing, in other houses in Hpakant for her livelihood.
There is also discrimination against women. Their culture does not accept that
they must work to provide a livelihood. One of the local women explained that she
must do domestic work everyday. Her friends insist women should not be work-
ing and question her.333 Moreover, the jade mining companies discriminate against
women and think women cant do anything. The SPDC has not taken responsibil-
ity to protect womens rights. As a result, instead of helping develop the Hpakant
area and ensure better lives for women there, livelihoods have been lost while the
profits from jade mining increase. The SPDC are getting reaping the proceeds of
economic growth and increasing control while local peoples human rights are
Women going to a stream to wash clothes and men going to the mine area to find jade. (Photo by Cindy).
Impacts on Women
Local women have taken up many positions in the local economy. They work in
local commerce, as domestic workers, maids cooks, prostitutes, drugs dealers etc.
Their lack of education and skills makes it difficult to get better jobs to support
their family. This tiring and stressful lifestyle has impacted local womens health.
Some of prostitutes explained, We dont want to do this job but we havent
chance to do other jobs and this job is easy to get money.
The jade mining companies (A CHYO TU Companies) use many huge dangerous
machines. Many people have died from landslides and dynamite explosions in
Hpakant. There is a little safety equipment or training for the workers. Jade mining
causes pollution in local air and rivers that affects pregnant women and children.
They cannot get clean water for cooking, drinking and cleaning. In fact, they are
facing water scarcity crises. 334
Interviews 1 and 4.
The HIV+AIDS epidemic is most intense in Burmas northeast, which suffers the
combined effects of HIV spread both by intravenous heroin use and sexual trans-
mission.335 HIV+AIDS rates are the highest in Kachin State in Burma. Because
Kachin State has rich nature resources the SPDC gives to permission for jade and
gold mining. These attract workers from many places. The mining areas have
many black markets like a drugs, trafficking and prostitution. Many get HIV+AIDS
because they dont know how to protect themselves. Yeah, HIV+AIDS are very
(prevalent), even in Myitkyina or Hpakant. We cant do anything for those who
are suffering from the AIDS: we just encourage and pray for them336 Most of
towns have hospitals but they have very expensive and clinical also not enough for
patient. Poor people didnt cured because they dont pay money for cure. The
SPDC dont care about HIV+AIDS patient and not aloud for them.
Many women are infected from their husband in Hpakant jade mine area in
Kachin State. If ten in pregnant seven women have HIV +. This cause is very
dangerous for Kachin community and generation. My husband was jade busi-
ness man and he supports many workers for dig jade. My husband has many time
of sexual with prostitution and I also couldnt refuse for sex. I didnt think about
HIV+AIDS will become in my body. My husband died in 2003 that HIV+AIDS at
that time I already have HIV disease. I really want to die and depress for that. All
of my relatives are didnt want to friendship and afraid to me. I dont want to alive
but I have 6 children I have to do for support their education and livelihood. I
havent any income some time my children and me are couldnt eat food. We have
to request my relatives for help food. I couldnt support for my children education
and all of things337 Another miner said he had a lot of sex with sex workers in the
Hpakant and also three wives. Now he has HIV and has passed it on to his
wives.338 The SPDC has not taken responsibility for HIV+AIDS education or
Burma: A Country in Crisis (1998) The Burma Project, a program of the Open Society Insti
tute, page 23.
Green Voices Of Youth, spread of HIV from returning mine workers, husband to spouse, page
The working conditions of jade mining push some to use drugs. They are finding
jade during the night in order to survive. One man explained that: My job is
finding (Yemasay) the whole night. I use drugs to help me do work.339 One Pastor
said: Number 4 (heroin) narcotic, the white opium, that is popular in our place,
they are using that one continuously. As far as I know, the military officers are the
source of that opium, because they order people to do. I saw them in the Hpakant
jade mining restricted area carrying opium in big trucks. They will just sit one of
the officials at the head of their cars so no one can question it. As long as you are
giving money, you can do whatever you like. There is no law in Burma. Only
money what the Burmese military want they do. There is no law340
The Hpakant area has a lot of drug users as drugs are easy to get. The authorities
give to permits to sell it. Drugs sellers and authorities cooperate to distribute
drugs for profit. Women have no other livelihood and turn to selling drugs and
using drugs. Some of sex worker use drugs for their jobs because they have a lots
of customers. The SPDC isnt preventing drug use, providing rehabilitation or
education. They want to kill by drugs in Hpakant because this place is ethnic area.
Complicity and corruption have resulted in declining living standards and abuses
of human rights.
Women become prostitutes because their families have income problems due to
unfair development and jade mining activities. There is little chance for education
so they do not have to chance to improve their life and their skills. Most of girls are
doing prostitution they are under 25. Many do not want to do it but it is easy to get
money that way. Some mothers even force their daughters into prostitution.
In Burma if you give money to the police they will go away. So jade mine workers
can do as they like as long as they are providing money, they can use prostitution
The problem of prostitution is caused by the cooperation between the jade mining
companies and SPDC. The combination of land confiscation, loss of livelihoods
and a lack of education impacts negatively on women. These women are not
employed by the companies and must earn an income which puts their health in
danger. The SPDC has provided no other alternatives and has failed in its respon-
The women who live in Hpakant jade mining area are unhappy, poor, unem-
ployed, uneducated and discriminated against in the community. The focus in the
Hpakant is exclusively on jade mining projects. In Hpakant all the land is used for
jade mining and granted to Chinese companies that cooperate with the SPDC. This
land has been confiscated causing the loss of local livelihoods. This, in turn, results
in the social problems outlined in this report: prostitution, drugs and underem-
ployment because women cant get good jobs in Hpakant jade mine area. Women
are not included in the development process. They havent enough knowledge
and education skills and are discriminated against in the community. The end
result is drug addiction and HIV AIDS.
The SPDC take responsibility for human development in the area. They should
implement the CEDAW and UDHR. The evidence suggests the SPDC dont care
about international law the human rights of its people. The SPDC shows little
regard for womens issues and their rights. It appears that the SPDC is only
interested in money and power.
To NGOs, UN and International Community
Pressure the SPDC to democratize and stop human rights violations in Kachin
Put pressure on Chinese investment in Burma to consider human rights in any
mega development project.
Pressure the SPDC to implement the CEDAW Convention.
To State Peace and Development Council
Allow local people, especially women, to participate in decisions about the
development of their natural resources.
Stop the jade mine projects in Kachin State unless operations contribute to local
Fully implement the CEDAW.
Fully respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
End all human rights abuses in Kachin State.
Regulate Chinese investment and any foreign investment.
To stop discrimination against women.
To Chinese Businessmen and other Foreign Businessmen
Do not be complicit in human rights abuses by the SPDC on locals land, farm and
Respect CEDAW and International law.
Respect the livelihood of local people.
Pressure the SPDC to comply with human rights law.
To the local community
Demand the SPDC to respect its obligations under CEDAW.
Demand the SPDC to respect UDHR.
The Food Security Crisis for People Living in Toungoo District
By Dawn Flower
Map of Karen State
Terms & Abbreviations
SPDC State Peace and Development Council; military junta ruling Burma
Village An administrative unit of 5 to 20 villages in a local area, often centered on
Tract a large village
IB Infantry Battalion (SPDC); supposed to be about 500 soldiers strong but at
present most SPDC battalions number under 200
LIB Light Infantry Battalion (SPDC); supposed to be about 500 soldiers strong
but at present most SPDC battalions number under 200
Camp Army base or outpost; these range from remote hill posts of 10 soldiers to
Battalion HQ camps of several hundred soldiers
KNU Karen National Union; main Karen opposition group
Viss Unit of weight measure; one viss = 1.6 kilograms or 3.5 pounds
Pyi Volume measure equivalent to 8 small condensed milk tins; about 2 kg. or
4.4 lbs. of rice
kyat Burmese currency; US$1=6 kyat at official rate, 1200+ kyat at current
Paddy Rice grain still in the husk
Rice Rice grain after pounding or milling, with the husk removed and ready to
Basket Unit of weight measure: one basket is 21 kg. or46 lbs. of paddy and 25 kg
or 55 lbs. of rice
Arm Unit of length measure: one arm span = 2 feet or 5.4 meters
Up land The mountain area
Low The lower area
Kaw The country without evil
White The SPDC control area
Clean up To clean up the car road is to cut the brush and vines along the car road
Black Area not controlled by the SPDC
Brown Also known as “mixed area” or “the administration.” This area is inside
Zone of the ceasefire area and is under both SPDC and KNU control. Villagers
have to pay taxes to both the KNU and the SPDC.
The State Peace and Development Councils (SPDC) efforts to eliminate the Karen
National Union (KNU) opposition group has had a negative impact on the food
security of the villagers in Toungoo District. This report will show how the
military government in Burma abuses ethnic minority groups such as the Karen
people in Toungoo District. This report focuses on the effects of the conflict on the
people residing in Toungoo District. After the SPDC defeated the KNU, they
increased security, built their military camps, and fixed old car roads or built up
new car roads to transport their military supplies. This meant the destruction and
relocation of villages, forcing the villagers to flee. The consequences for the villag-
ers are that the villagers do not have time to work on their farms. This has
negatively impacted food security, and directly caused food scarcity, economic
problems, and health and nutrition problems.
The report puts forward, based on information gained from interviews with
affected people, that part of the reason for this oppression is that the SPDC wanted
to destroy the minority opposition KNU group and to isolate the KNU soldiers
from the Karen civilians. For this reason, the villages, which the SPDC considers to
be KNU strongholds, were targeted and destroyed. The SPDC built their camps in
the villages or between two Karen villages. The SPDC uses the villagers for forced
labor. They confiscate the villagers animals, food and property. The villagers who
live in the upland SPDC controlled area have been forced to move to relocation
sites without any future plans for them. By 2005, with the numbers of internally
displaced people increasing, the situation became intolerable. The SPDC didnt
only burn villages; they also burned the forest in order to destroy the villagers
hiding and storage places. This systematic oppression destroyed the villagers
livelihoods, farms, gardens, and animals, and cut off trade between the lowland
area and upland area.
The SPDCs destruction of property led directly to food security problems. When-
ever the SPDC came to the upland mountain area (a black zone) they burned down
houses, gardens, and paddy barns, killed animals and destroyed whatever they
saw. In so doing, they took away not only the villagers property - they also took
away the villagers food resources, security, and nutrition. In the past, the villagers
got nutritious food from their land, and local community fields provided food
security. In the past the villagers could work freely and they could go to farm on
time so the fields were not damaged by wildlife. They did not use fertilizers for
growing and every year the fields provided good fruits and vegetables. When the
local peoples fields were lost they also lost the vitamins in their bodies. The
people in Toungoo District are primarily subsistence farmers. They depend on
their cardamom, betel nut and animals, and do not have access to or knowledge
about economic opportunities. Their fields and gardens are the only sustainable
development they need. Because of the SPDCs human rights abuses, the people of
Toungoo District do not have adequate food, and food security has been com-
The documentation in this report was collected through a series of interviews with
the victims themselves. The researcher wrote this report so that readers, local
NGOs and international community organizations will have sympathy and empa-
thy for the people of Burma, work to find ways to solve these problems, and
immediately pressure the SPDC to stop all human rights abuses. The information
was collected by individual interviews with 35 victims, organization leaders,
children, and women who were suffering from food security problems. Interviewees
were people who were living in the SPDC controlled area, the people who were
living in the mountain upland area (KNU controlled area), and the people who
were living between the SPDC and KNU controlled areas of Toungoo District. The
research was done in Ee Htu Hta Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp near the
Many of the people who are living in Toungoo District are from the Maw Nay Bwa
and Pa Ku subgroups of the Karen ethnic group. They speak different dialects but
their cultures are very similar. The Karen Office of Relief and Developments
(KORD) staff who document human rights abuses estimate that 193 villages, 9,126
households and 48,256 people are located in Toungoo District. Since the time of
their grandparents they have lived in that area, established their livelihoods, and
enjoyed peace and justice. They are mostly Christians, but some are animists and
The Karen in Toungoo District primarily live in upland mountain areas, but some
also live in lowland areas. The people living in upland mountain areas cultivate
rice fields, have gardens, hunt and fish in the streams. They all depend on the
forests and streams for ordinary life and meals. They depend on betel nuts,
cardamom, and some people collect dog fruit if it is in season. Some people have 5
acre fields and some have plantations of more than 10 to 20 acres. In the rainy
season they grow vegetables, fruits, and ground nuts in the flat fields. They also
have domestic animals such as pigs, chickens, and some buffalos that fulfill many
needs. They sell and buy food and other things such as fish paste, dried fish and
cooking oil from the lowland area. The villagers can earn money this way, and
they estimate that they can make 300,000 kyat each year, and that some could earn
up to 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 kyat each year. This provides economic and food
security and they do not need to worry for their families.
Since they have farms and domestic animals they do not need to buy so much food
at the markets and they only needed to buy some things such as salt, fish paste,
petrol and sometimes cooking oil. They mostly depend on the forest for medi-
cines, household supplies, and food.
The people who are living in the lowland areas depend on wet fields and some
catch fish during the rainy season and make fish paste. Some grow peanuts or
beans in the summer season. They raise domestic animals such as pigs, chickens,
bullocks, buffalos and sometimes sell them to make money.
The people in the lowland and upland areas have a good relationship. They have
strong community gardens and trading relationships. They do not need to pay
excess taxes and everyone can buy cheap foods. The villagers have strong societies
and help each other. Everyone can eat enough good and nutritious food.
The situation changed drastically in 1995 for the livelihoods of the villagers. The
SPDC regime restricted communications and trading between the lowland and
upland areas. The people in the mountain area often had to flee to the forest to
escape SPDC violence, so their livelihood was not normal as before.
When the SPDC came up to the upland mountain area, they burnt the villagers
houses, cut down coconut and betel nut trees, burnt up cardamom gardens and
paddy barns, and when they left the village they planted landmines to deter the
villagers from returning. The SPDC abused the villagers rights and the property
destruction had a negative impact on food security. In the past the villagers had
been able to get money from cardamom seeds and betel nut, and got good fruit
from their fields. Protein came from their domestic meat. Because they could no
longer eat meat and fruit they suffered protein and vitamin deficiencies.
The people in the lowland areas are now unable to eat good fruit from the
mountain areas because the SPDC cut off their trading relationship. If they have
enough money, they can buy food from markets, but the vegetables from the
markets have been grown with chemical fertilizers and therefore are not as deli-
cious and have fewer vitamins.
The people in the lowland area face similar problems to the mountain people.
Both the lowland people and the mountain people have food security problems.
However, only the lowland people have to perform forced labor such as portering,
building up military camps, and cutting brushes or vines along the car road. They
are also forced to give their domestic animals and other household items such as
cookware and tools to the military battalions. Each of these things has a negative
effect on the villagers food security. When they go work as porter they lose their
precious time that they need to work in the fields, and the wildlife sometimes
destroys their crops while they are away. Sometimes the villagers have been
tortured during forced labor and sometimes when they get sick the SPDC does not
take care of them. When the villagers go to porter they cannot eat and have to carry
heavy things or weapons. Some people have died during portering and some have
disappeared. Some returned from portering thin or sick, and some were injured.
These human rights abuses not only left the villagers without time and resources
to work on their fields, but also left many people too weak, sick, or injured to work
when they returned from forced labor.
According to the report entitled The Right to Food Denied by Burma Issues, there is
currently a situation of food security and scarcity in Burma because of military
operations such as crop destruction, forced relocation and displacement, land
confiscation, extortion, unofficial taxes, and forced labor.342
Due to SPDC operations, the villagers in Toungoo District have lost food and
economic resources. The number of internally displaced people increases year by
year and when displaced people move to another place or village, it has a negative
effect on the host villagers because they have to share their food. This is another
direct and negative impact on food security.
The IDP population increased seriously after the SPDC began military operations.
In 2006-07 newly displaced civilians in Than Daung Township were estimated to
number 12,900 people. In 2007 there were 13,000 IDPs in hiding sites and 1,200 in
relocation sites. The SPDC also had shot and killed 32 villagers who were innocent
and 7 people were killed by the SPDC landmines.343 From early 2008 until April 3,
3 people were killed and 3 people injured by the SPDC landmines.
The SPDC has continued to increase their troops, sending more troops into Toungoo
District and also keeping more on operations. In 2006-07 the military troops who
Karen Relief Report 2006 2007.
were continuing and still operating in Toungoo district were division, Southern
Military Command, military command headquarters, light infantry battalions and
infantry battalions with a total of 46 battalions.344
Food Scarcity Due to Forced Labor
Forced labor contributes to a loss of food security by leaving the villagers insuffi-
cient time to work on their fields, or taking them away so that they were unable to
prevent animals from destroying their crops. Often, forced labor left villagers too
weak, sick, or injured to work when they returned. In addition, villagers are often
taken for forced labor when they are on their way back from buying food from
other villages. When this happens, the SPDC confiscates the food they are carry-
ing, further contributing to food scarcity. Finally, when adults, especially women,
are taken for forced labor and children are left behind, there is no one to care for
and provide food for the children.
Because the SPDC control the area, they impose security restrictions and threaten
the villagers in many ways. The villagers who are living in these white zone areas
are forced by the SPDC to work for military construction projects and to cultivate
cash crops for the military. The SPDC forces villagers to cut the brush and vines
along the car roads without any payment when they are repairing the roads. Some
villagers have been killed by SPDC landmines and some have been tortured
during the forced labor.
The SPDC force elderly people, women, and children to work together. Some have
to work for the military camp, carrying water, cooking, cutting wood for fires and
building fences around the military camps. They also force the villagers to make
festival ceremonies with the villagers own food. When the villagers get sick the
SPDC does not take care of them and does not give them any food, water, or rest. If
the villagers do not go for forced labor they have to give however much money the
SPDC wants and the villagers cannot argue. They order the village headmen to
find one person to work from each house. Because of the forced labor, the villagers
do not have enough time to work on their own fields. This means that they cannot
provide enough food for their families, leading to health problems.
During 2007 the SPDC forced 296 people and 19 cars to work for them without
payment or food.345
The villagers who are living in the SPDC-controlled lowland areas have to go
porter 4 or 5 times a year. Sometimes they have to go for only 1 day, but sometimes
they have to go for an entire month. Because the villagers had to go porter they lost
the valuable time that they need to work in their fields. Sometimes, because the
villagers were away, the wild ani-
mals destroyed the rice in the fields
and when the villagers came back
they saw only their damaged crops.
When the harvest time arrives they
get only a little rice and it is not
adequate for the family anymore.
In May 2007, SPDC Division 66
forced me to carry their rice and I
had to carry a heavy rice load that
weighed 15 viss and they recorded
my name and took my photo be-
SPDC soldiers forcing villagers to be porters.
(Photo by KHRG). fore I went.346
The SPDC troops not only ordered the village headmen to find porters. They also
had bad behavior when they saw the villagers traveling or buying other foods
such as dry fish, fish paste, salt, or bread from another place or market. When they
saw them on the road they took all of the villagers belongings and forced the
villagers to porter. Some people were very old and some people were very young
but the SPDC didnt care about their ages. The villagers who went to porter
couldnt eat well and had to go on long travels. Because they couldnt eat enough
they had low energy and insufficient protein. Therefore, even food that the villag-
ers bought didnt go to their families. Rather, it was confiscated by the SPDC. This
caused the entire family to suffer from insufficient protein. This is another way
that forced labor contributed to a lack of food security.
On 18th of April 2000 SPDC Division 44 arrested me when I came back from Kler La
and they took all of my things. They forced me to porter and tied my hand with my
friends. They tied 5 people together with 1 rope and when they had fighting they
forced us to lie down and it was difficult to sit down.347
Interview 6, 41 years old.
Interview 7, 27 years old.
The SPDC troops abused and tortured the villagers during portering time. They
didnt give them enough food or take care of porters when they got sick. When the
porters asked for medicines or foods they swore at porters, and sometimes slapped
porters faces. They intimidate the women and they sometimes rape the women
and shame them. The women were the ones who took care of children and the
house, and prepared food for the family. Some women were widows so when they
went to porter no one was there to take care of their children. Therefore, some-
times their children couldnt eat normally and could get diarrhea or vomit. Some-
times widows had to porter for an entire month and when they came back their
children were sick and thinner.
I lived in my village and I had to porter and do other forced labor all the time, so
I couldnt make money anymore. When my children got sick I couldnt give them
good nutritious food and medicines and now my children and I together lost vita-
mins in our bodies.348
The link between women and food security is very important, especially for
children. When only the fathers go porter the mothers are left behind to take care
of the children. She can cook for them, and when her rice is nearly finished they
collect green vegetables with vitamins and cook porridge, and the children can get
protein in their bodies. If the father is already doing forced labor and the mother
must also go as a porter for one month, there is no one to look after the children
and their nutrition and health will suffer.
The SPDC arrested me with my friends named Saw , 39 years old, from Thaw
Kaw Saw village, Saw , 50 years old, from Mae Wa Kaw village, Saw , 16
years old, from Thaw Kaw Saw village when we came back for Kler La village. I
saw the troops slap my friends faces, kick their bellies, hit their faces with their fists,
and kick their buttocks and one of my friends fell down and was unconscious.
After that they took all of our things and forced us to porter. While I went they
grabbed my hand to try to separate me from my friends but I also grabbed my
friends hands when they did that. They did that three or four times but I didnt
follow them. 349
Interview 35, 30 years old.
Interview 13, 36 years old.
Messengers & Night Sentries
The SPDC troops forced the villagers to work as messengers and sentries at night.
They did not ignore children and the elderly: even the oldest people over 70 years
old and the children under 13 had to go. Four people had to go each day and night.
When the villagers were messengers, they had to carry their own food, to dig
holes, collect fire wood, and carry water. Some times the SPDC troops ordered
messengers to collect chicken and pork from the villagers without paying them.
When the villagers were absent they had to hire others to work for them. How-
ever, some were widows and some were orphans who could not pay anyone else,
so they had to go themselves. Like portering, being forced to work as messengers
and night guards also has a negative impact on food security because it takes away
the time they need to work on their farms. If they stay to work on their farms and
pay someone else to go work for them, they are unable to buy the extra food they
needed. When they are forced to give domestic animals to the SPDC they are
unable to get enough protein.
The villagers had to be messengers or night sentries at the military camp. If they
didnt go they had to pay 1,000 kyat per day and 1,500 kyat per night. When the
military major or commander came the villagers had to guard and sentry along-
side the car road. The villagers had to do this without payment. 350
When the military government fixes or constructs new car roads they use the
villagers as tools. They force the villagers to cut brush along the car roads. In
addition to taking people away from their farms and families like other forced
labor, building roads presents the added danger of deliberate exposure to
landmines. The villagers are forced to walk in front of bulldozers to protect the
bulldozers from land mines. This is extremely dangerous since if the landmines
explode, the villagers die. When villagers step on the land mines the SPDC troops
do not take any responsibility. When they are injured, they have to go to the
hospital which is very expensive, leaving insufficient money to feed their families.
People injured by landmines are left disabled, and they cannot survive, be healthy,
or get protein in their bodies anymore. Thus, landmines also contribute to food
security by killing some members of families, and leaving others disabled. Hospi-
tal stays for people injured by land mines are an added financial strain.
Interview 16, 74 years old.
The SPDC troops from
IB 75 with strength of
60 soldiers forced me
to cut brush and vines
along the car road.
While I did it I had to
sleep in their camp
and I had to carry wa-
ter and cook for them
in the morning and the
evening after I finished
my work. I had to
clean for three days
and I was also afraid
that landmines would
Villagers forced to make a road by the SPDC. (Photo by KHRG).
Many children were forced to carry stones and sand for the road. Sometimes it
affects their studies and their health. Children do not have time to go to their fields
or gardens, where they can learn what good food is and where nutritious food
comes from. Some children, after enduring much forced labor, develop changed
ideas and they do not want to go to school. They do not want to think about their
futures because they do not see any relief from a life of forced labor and poverty.
These children do not know how to make money and cannot buy good food.
Thus, forced labor causes childrens food security and education to suffer. A lack
of education will almost certainly contribute to continuing food insecurity in the
In 2005 April, SPDC Battalion 73 ordered me and other villagers including women,
men, children, and the elderly, to carry stones for the car road. When I went I
saw the oldest person was 70 years old, the youngest was 12 years old and we
had to carry our own food. I saw in all that there were a total of 90 people there
and two or three of the soldiers came and checked us each time. 352
Interview 11, 38 years old.
Interview 15, 19 years old.
Building Military Camps
According to my research the SPDC troops built their camps in indigenous vil-
lages or between two villages. The local people who are living in those villages are
forced to build military battalion frontline camps, cut down bushes or vines, fell
trees, uproot shrubs, make fences, dig holes. The commanders order each house-
hold to send one person to work on these projects.
In my village I saw the military troops build their camps in six places. These were
Htee Lo, Play Sher Lo, Tar Ba Kee, Htee Nya Pay, Moo Moo Kee, Yie Sha and the
troops who were living in there were IB- 40, 20, 30. I had to build it four or five times
The military built more of their camps and forced labor, extortion and unofficial
taxes increased. As forced labor increased, the villagers were faced with more food
insecurity. For example, if a villager in the relocation sites does daily hire work
he/she gets 500 kyat each day. The money they get day by day is just barely
enough for his/her family. There is none left over to save after fulfilling basic
needs. Therefore, if he/she has to go to forced labor for five or ten days, he/she
will lose 500 kyat each day and his/her family will not be able to eat and can
SPDC Battalion 48 based in Sha Shi Bo ordered me to build their military camp and
I had to collect bamboo from the forest. It was so hard to get and carry that. When
I took it to the military camp they forced me to dig holes and I started from 8 AM to
11 AM without taking a rest. When my hand hurt I asked them if my friends could
change with but they didnt allow me. I had to build their camp two times and
other times my wife went or my children, sometimes I hired someone else. 354
The military government has already signed the Convention on the Rights of the
Child, Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General
Assembly resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989, entry into force 2 September
1990, in accordance with article 49.355 However, right now, many children in
Burma are enduring forced labor and no action is taken or punishment given to the
SPDC. When children worked as forced laborers they couldnt take any rests and
the SPDC didnt give them food. Sometimes they had to work in the rain and
Interview 10, 55 years old.
Interview 20, 36 years old.
sometimes when the sun was hot. Sometimes the children got sick and when they
came back from the work they had to go directly to the hospital. The parents in
Toungoo district are ordinary farmers and dont have the means to save money for
emergency spending. While their children were in the hospital they had to sell
some domestic animals or paddy for daily food. This would just cover hospital or
medicine costs. Some parents developed debt and when the harvest time came
they would repay it. Because they repaid their debts with paddy, they were left
with inadequate food.
On January 2007 I had to build up the military camp. All of those were older and
I saw the people the same age as me was in there. I estimated that oldest could
be 55 years old and the youngest, 12, could be me and one of my friends. I had to
carry bamboo in the forest that would take 3 hours there and back on foot. I car-
ried the bamboo that weighed 7 viss ( 1 viss = 1.6 Kilo). When I got to the soldiers
camp I had to carry water because I couldnt build a fence around the camp. The
unit was battalion 48 with strength of 20 soldiers based in Htee Nie Lu.356
Property & Livelihood Destruction
Since the villagers depend upon their farms and animals for food, the destruction
of their property has a direct and negative impact on food security. The military
regime wants to destroy the KNU opposition group and force the upland villagers
to move to relocation sites. The villagers and the KNU opposition group depend
on each other. They figure that when the upland villagers move to the lowland
areas they can exercise more control and they can increase their militarization.
Next they can destroy the KNU opposition group secretly because once their
livelihoods are destroyed, the villagers are not able to support the KNU at all.
When the SPDC come up to the upland areas they destroy all the belongings of the
villagers. When they enter the villages they kill animals and burn up villages and
when they leave they plant landmines to deter the villagers from returning home.
They wanted to kill the villagers and find the villagers in their forest hiding places.
It is not only to find the villagers; they are also looking for villagers hidden food
stores. Many villagers cannot eat when this happens and most of the children,
women, and the elderly have seen big problems.
The SPDC also destroy cultivation fields, cut down betel nut trees and coconut
trees and burned up everything in the gardens. Good fruit comes from the local
Interview 21, 12 years old.
communities plantations and delicious, nutritious foods came from that area. It
is not expensive and has a good taste. The people are very happy when they get to
harvest time. After they collect all the fruits, vegetables and meats, they have a
festival together. However, after the SPDC destroyed the villagers livelihoods the
villagers lives are far away from peace and justice.
In 2006 the SPDC burned up my paddy barn including 10 baskets of paddy. At
that time the wood I had prepared for building a house, which cost 45,000 kyat
was all burned up. My betel nut garden was also burned.357
According to KORDs relief documentation, in 2006-07 the SPDC destroyed 610
cultivation fields, 25 wet fields, 49,000 baskets of paddy, 922 baskets of rice, 775
viss of betel nut, 8,220 viss of cardamom seed , 1 motorcycle, 1 solar panel, 1 video
machine, 2 cars , 1 bullock cart, and 41 villages.358
Rice destroyed by SPDC troops. (Photo by KHRG).
Interview 4, 30 years old.
KORD Relief Report 2006 2007.
The situation has very seriously changed since 2006. The SPDC treated the
villagers badly and some villagers had to flee to the forest for the whole year, so
there were no more domestic animals in the village. In April 2008, the SPDC
Southern Military Commander ordered his soldiers to keep operating every-
where, to burn up forests such as the villagers hiding place and when they see
villagers they must kill them all without limitations, even the children and oldest.
The SPDC burned up my hidden cache including 60 tins of paddy, rice, betel nut,
clothes and pots.359
Destruction of Fields
Between 2006 and now the SPDC burned the forest in Toungoo more often,
especially alongside the car road in order to clear out the landmines planted by
opposition groups and also so that opposition groups or villagers crossing the car
road can be seen by the SPDC more easily. On the 5th of April, 2008 they started
burning the forest the cardamom, betel nut, durian plantations and hidden food
caches of villages east of the Day Lo River such as Thay Ya Yu village, Ler Ker Der
Kho village and west of the Day Lo such as Ker Weh village, Ler Gi Kho Der Kho
village, Ler Gi Kho Der Kah village, Htee Bu Khee Der Kah village and Htee Bu
Khee Der Kah were burnt up.
This year on 5th April of 2008 the SPDC troops burned up the forest including six
Before they SPDC soldiers enter the forest they fire mortars to kill opposition
group members. They also fire mortars into the villages and sometimes the shells
hit houses and a few villagers have been injured.
The information obtained from interviewees was that many rice fields have been
destroyed all the time. Some rice fields are not damaged only by the SPDC but also
by wildlife because the villagers have to flee and cannot look after them. When the
villagers return they see that it is too late to fix their lost crops. This also had a
negative impact on food security.
When I harvested paddy with my family the SPDC troops shot at us. One woman
died and one got injured. After that the SPDC troops broke down fences and let
the animals enter my fields.There were seven fields destroyed in the same way. 361
Destruction of Animals
When the SPDC enters villages the villagers have to flee to the forest. When they
flee they cannot bring with them every household item, and they can only bring
some important clothes and foods. If they know whether the situation will be
good or bad they can eat some domestic animals such as chickens right away.
Domestic animals such as pigs or other large animals cannot be eaten because
there is not enough time. No one wants to buy meat when this happens because
they are not able to store it when they have to hide in the forest. One woman was
arrested by SPDC Infantry Battalion 20 and Divisions 66 and 55 headed by Com-
mander Maing Thang and Major Pra Chan. She said, When I went with them I
saw the SPDC troops did many bad things to the villagers. When they entered the
village and they shot and killed pigs, bulls, and buffalos but they didnt eat them.
They kill freely like that without any pity. When they left the village they planted
landmines to deter the villagers from returning.362
When the SPDC troops entered my village they shot and killed four bullocks and
three buffalos that belonged to the villagers.363
Destruction of Households
There have been many people who
have become poor because the of
the SPDCs violence to the villag-
ers. The people interviewed for this
report were facing problems when
the SPDC took away their house-
holds or destroyed them. They had
to build their new lives without any
resources and it was too difficult.
The SPDC often burnt villagers
houses and stole peoples gold
Villagers house burned by SPDC troops.
(Photo by KHRG).
Interview 18, 27 years old.
Interview 21, 41 years old.
Interview 16, 27 years old.
rings, necklaces, or earrings so they did not have anything to sell and no way to
buy food. All of their precious things went to the SPDCs plan so they couldnt do
anything in their future lives.
In 2006 SPDC Division 66 burned down my house and things made of wood in-
cluding household things such as pots, plates, blankets, and rice.364
Restrictions on Communications & Transportation
The SPDCs restriction of communications and transportation has a negative
impact on food security because villagers are often not allowed to tend their fields
outside the village, or to go and watch over their fields so that they wouldnt be
damaged by wildlife, or to go to markets to buy extra food. When they were
allowed to go, the SPDC required expensive letters of recommendation, which left
the villagers with less money to buy supplementary food. These restrictions also
prevented the lowland and upland areas from trading with one another, which
has a further negative impact on food security.
Starting from 2005 and continuing until now, the villagers who living in the brown
and white areas are restricted by the SPDC. The villagers who have cars or
motorcycles are not allowed by the SPDC to go to the city from their village. If
people leave the city illegally and the SPDC sees him/her they put the person
directly in jail and they confiscate all of their things.
In May 2007 they arrested the villagers in the relocation sites. Saw , 15 years
old, from Taw Goo, Saw age 28 from Taw Goo were arrested and put in prison
when they were looking after their bullocks. Saw , age 24 from Ta Yar Lu, Saw
, age 50, his wife Naw , age 48, his sons Saw , age 25, Saw , age
14, his daughter Naw age 18 were arrested and put in prison when they went
to the field. They had to stay in the prison for 3 years. Naw , -18 years old was
pregnant and she had to give birth in the prison. The 2 teenage children were sent
to Toungoo prison. They were all farmers and werent doing anything wrong, but
the SPDC sneakily arrested them when they went to their fields. The reason was
that those villagers didnt have passes when they were arrested. The others villag-
ers gave a lot of money to the SPDC to get them out of prison but they would not
allow them to go back to their home.365
Interview 33, 25 years old.
Interview 2, 42 years old.
When the villagers in the SPDC controlled areas go to the city they have to take
with them a testimonial and one letter of recommendation obtained from the
village headman, who is appointed by the SPDC. These cost 100 kyat, and
sometimes 500 kyat. When the villagers pass through the checkpoints the officers
in charge interrogate him/her and if they see contraband such as batteries, flash-
lights, clothes, or medicines they arrest them directly without any questions. Some
villagers are very poor and cannot buy letters of recommendation all the time,
which means that they cannot collect vegetables and find food outside the village.
The villagers do not have enough gardens or markets in the village to get enough
food for every meal. They depend on their fields outside the villages, so when they
cannot buy letters of recommendation they are unable to look after their fields and
the plants can be damaged by wildlife. When harvest time comes the villagers
cant collect good fruits and paddy.
When I went to Nah Yaw I had to bring with me a testimonial and I had to pay 100
kyat and sometimes I had to pay 500 kyat. I could buy only food and they limited
it so that one 1 person can carry one viss of fish paste. If we carry more than that
they say, You will give it to KNU. 366
The villagers have to build fences around the villages and they cannot go out
wherever they want. The SPDC troops also plant landmines to deter the KNU or
villagers in the upland mountain area from coming. After they build the fence the
villagers have to be messengers and night sentries.
In 2007 in my village, SPDC Infantry Battalion 48 forced the villagers to build a
fence around the village and their camp. The villagers had to fence in three lines
around. In the village fence they build two gates, just for entry and exit. They are
opened from 6 oclock in the morning until 6 oclock in the evening.367
The SPDC troops have bad behavior: when they see the villagers go with travel
passes they give troubles to the villagers. According to the interviews in Lay Tie
village the villagers took travel passes with them before they went out but when
the other troops saw them they asked 1,000 kyat to get permission to go.
SPDC Battalion 73 headed by Officer Taing Oo disturbed me when I sold my betel
nut to Toungoo city. He extorted from me one pack (1 pack = 3 big tins) worth
3,000 kyat. At that time I had six packs and I couldnt give him any because they
are too expensive for me and in my purse I had only 3,000 kyat for traveling cost.
Interview 24, 48 years old.
Interview 10, 55 years old.
He told me, if you know someone in this area, go and ask for help. I told him I
didnt know anyone, and then he couldnt make a decision and took my money in
my purse. He also said, If someone asks you, dont speak about this.368
Restricted Trade from Lowland to Upland
In 2007 the SPDC was restricting trade and collecting the number of family
members in each house. The villagers in the mixed area have to take photos and
sign their names for the SPDC. They were making sure that the village population
does not decrease or increase. One commander ordered that if he saw guests in the
village he would punish the villagers. The villagers do not have a chance to go to
the upland mountain area. They cannot collect vegetables from the forest any-
more. They have a small opportunity to go to the wet rice fields but they have a
travel pass with them. When they go to the fields they can only take with them a
knife and pack of rice. They have to go in the morning and came back in the
evening. If the villagers tell the SPDC that the wildlife will destroy their paddy the
soldiers allow them to sleep in the field huts but only one person and one or two
buffalos can stay. During the time they sleep in the field hut they cannot use a
flashlight. His or her family has to prepare a pack of rice and send it to him or her
every day. Many people in the lowland areas in Than Daung Township have to
eat only porridge. The porridge is eaten when there is almost no more rice. When
the villagers rice is nearly gone they cook it with a lot of water and some
vegetables to make it last longer. This just barely controls their stomachs and
When I lived in the relocation area I had to eat porridge several times because
the SPDC troops didnt allow me to go out and work in the farm full time.369
Due to the SPDC taking action like that the villagers in the mountain area cannot
go and buy food. When they go they are scared of landmines, and if the SPDC see
them they shoot to kill them immediately. Due to the SPDCs actions the villagers
in the mountain area hiding sites have lost their ability to trade and cannot get
enough food day by day. Thus, food scarcity and huger have increased due to the
SPDC cutting off local community trade.
This is a true experience; Saw Tha Say was 54 years old when he hung himself
because he couldnt eat.370
Interview 20, 35 years old.
Interview 3, 39 years old.
Interview 32, 35 years old.
Cutting Off Communications
Many people, especially those who are living in SPDC controlled areas are faced
with the problems associated with revolution and political resistance. Some have
families living in the mountain areas and they are communicating with each other.
In the villages the SPDC is using spies to observe the situation. If the opposition
groups or guests enter the village the spies send messages to the SPDC com-
mander immediately. When the officers hears about the situation he enters the
village with his troops and checks which house the visitors have gone to. When
they find out they arrest the owner who is then tortured and put in jail. Sometimes
if the soldiers receive got seriously bad information from the spies, the owner of
the house is killed. Before they take the people out of the house they enter the
house and search for valuable property such as money or gold rings. After
stealing those things, they burn the house. This not only affects the one who was
sent to jail, it also affects the whole familys livelihood and the village economy.
When the SPDC get information like that they restrict the whole family and they
always check them, so those families do not have any freedom. The villagers and
the KNU lose communication. The SPDC is trying to oppress them in many ways.
On September 15, 2006, the SPDC ordered us to go and take photos as rebel KNU.
When we went they gave us red cloth [to wear as headbands]. On the red cloth
they wrote down Rebel KNU. They recorded everyones names with house num-
bers. They took 10 people in each picture. They also recorded one leader in each
picture to make sure that when they came and checked the leader had to collect
their members. I had to pay 1,000 kyat for one picture. In my house my family had
to eat porridge. I had to feed the SPDC first and ignore my familys problems.371
The village head men have to solve conflicts between villagers and the SPDC
troops several times. If the situation became bad they had to negotiate with the
SPDC troops. Sometimes the village headmen had to collect money from the
villagers for corruption to pay the SPDC. Sometimes the village headmen were
tortured if they could not collect enough money. Most of the men who were over
20 have to flee from the village in fear but the problems do not finish when they
hide. The SPDC troops cause trouble for the left behind families. Applied to the
food security issue, when the father of the house is hiding in the forest, he cannot
work in the field. Another problem is that when the father flees to the forest, he is
unable to have a job so his family will have to send money or food secretly to him.
All of those problems have a negative impact on food security.
Interview 20, 35 years old.
I was the village head starting from 1995 till 2006. The SPDC also used violence
against me because they heard I had contact with the KNU. On March 17th 2006
Major Soe Win of SPDC Battalion 48 wanted to arrest me so I couldnt stay in my
village anymore. When he came to arrest me he entered my friends house and
asked about me. When my son in-law told me about that I fled immediately and
he didnt see me. When I escaped in the forest I had to be afraid of poison snakes.
My friends Saw Pyeh Soe, age 40, Saw Shway Thay, age 60, Saw Wah Say, age 40,
Saw Sher Tay, age 32, and Saw Loe Htoo, age 46, have been killed by poisonous
snakes biting them. When we lived in my village I had to do forced labor always
and the SPDC wanted to kill us and when we fled to the forest we had to work in the
dark without flashlights, so the poisonous snakes became our enemies.372
Food Scarcity Due to Confiscation
As the SPDC increases their troops they also need more vehicles to carry their
troops. They are also building many military base camps and constructing car
roads for transportation. While they are constructing the camps and the roads they
do not care about the natural environment, or about local people and their prop-
erty. They build their camps wherever they want and do not ask permission from
the villagers. Sometimes they cut down all of the betel nut trees and coconut trees
for posts without payment. They confiscate the villagers land without any
compensation. They forcibly ask money, animals and household possessions with-
out warning. They forcibly ask for bamboo and wood for construction with
Land confiscation not only violates the political, social, and economic rights of
ethnic people throughout Burma, but also has had severe environmental, eco-
nomic, and social impacts. The Burmese Army is the primary conductor of the land
seizures throughout Burma, often under the guidance of the Myanmar Agricultural
According to a KORD relief report, the SPDC demanded money from the villagers.
In total they took 4,739,000 kyat, 4 buffalos, 4 goats, 5 pigs, 65 chickens, 6,550 poles
of bamboo, 300 shingles of leaves for roofs, 650 wood poles, and 4 acres of land.374
The confiscation of land destroyed the villagers livelihood that depended upon
farming. The extortion of animals destroyed the villagers main source of protein.
Interview 24, 58 years old.
Natural Light, NEED Report, page 16.
KORD Relief Report 2006 2007.
Confiscation of Animals
Especially in the villages which are in the SPDC controlled areas, the village
headmen have to collect chicken, pork and sometimes goats without money. The
SPDC Light Infantry Battalion and Infantry Battalion front lines troops come and
set up their camps in the villages and extort villagers domestic animals two or
three times a week so the villagers have a serious problem with regard to their
domestic animals. The extortion started in 1997 and continues now, so the villag-
ers are poor and lack their domestic animals. Some people do not want to raise
animals because they think that if they raise animals, they will only go into the
SPDC hands. Some villagers cannot eat meat for five or six months and their
health suffers. They do not look good and their skin complexion is not smooth.
When my husband went to porter the SPDC troops based in my village came and
asked me for chicken. At that time I told them I didnt have any, but they were not
satisfied and shot my chicken under my house. At that time they got three chick-
ens and I estimated that one chicken would be 2 kilos. 375
Confiscation of Household Possessions
The SPDC construction of car roads and their front lines camp has had a negative
impact on the local people who are living in Tantabin Township. Many houses
lost possessions and land, and many people became displaced people. For ex-
ample, one villager has only one knife to cut brush in his flat field. When the SPDC
takes it away, he cant use it, and the brush in the flat field gets taller than the rice
and the rice dies. When the rice is dead, the villager has to borrow rice from other
people. The next time, if the SPDC does the same thing again, that villager will not
get adequate food.
In 2006, SPDC Light Infantry Battalion 48 entered my village when one couple was
having a happy wedding. Immediately they entered and searched the house of
the person holding the wedding party and took 1 battery. 376
Interview 8, 38 years old.
Interview 20, 35 years old.
Confiscation of Land & Construction on Land
In Tantabin Township the villagers in many areas such as Sha Kyi area, Ta Pyin
area, Thay Char Say area, Myaw Yaw Thay area, Nah Yaw area, Lay Tie area,
Chaw Jar area, Nie Ta Goe area, Lae Ka Lay area, Aye Kyaw area, Sway Ta Saw
area, Peh Kaw Day area, Sha Shi Bo area, Yie Sha area, Zie Pyu Goe area, Pyie Khah
area, Taw Ma Aye area, Taw Goe area were faced with food security problems
because of the SPDC development projects. In 1998 the SPDC built a dam on the
Per Tha Taw River. They opened the water gates in August every year without
giving warning to the villagers. When they let the water out it flooded the area for
one month. Flooding the fields in August destroyed the peoples crop for the year,
making it very difficult for them to find food.
I had 7 acres of wet paddy farm and 4 acres was destroyed by flooding so I didnt
have enough money for my family.377
Many villagers in Yie Sha had to move from their homes and leave behind their
land and gardens. The SPDC troops built their camps and a helicopter landing
field, and immediately took the villagers houses and land without any compensa-
tion. The construction on the land construction takes away food resources from the
villagers, because the forest is the villagers life and the land provides the villagers
I had an experience in my village in 2007. The troops forced 10 families to move
and they destroyed 9 wood houses and built their military office. One house they
didnt destroy because that houses roof was made of zinc, so they used that house
as a store room.378
Interview 24, 58 years old.
Interview 10, 55 years old.
The junta tries to destroy the villagers in many ways. Many villages in Tantabin
and Than Daung Township have been burned and the villagers relocated. When
the SPDC troops force the villagers to move they also mandate the date villagers
must leave, and often give very little warning. When the villagers move they
cannot carry everything. Their domestic animals and some household items are
left behind. When they enter the relocation site they do not have any land and they
have to work for hire too, day by day. They cannot earn enough food for the next
morning and they also have poor nutrition and insufficient protein. Many villag-
ers are faced with problems such as heavy debts. Other problems are, they have to
do forced labor for the military commanders several times a year, so they lose their
precious time for hired work. With no land to farm and forced labor preventing
people from making money by working, families are unable to get enough food.
Situation in Relocation Sites
When the villagers live in relocation sites they cant go anywhere. The villagers
look like the fish in the pot with no hope. In the research many villagers expressed
their awful experiences when they lived in relocation sites. The villagers are
always concerned about their food and their lives are in the SPDCs palm. A saying
goes, if we leave the village, we will be poor for 3 months, if we leave the country,
we will be poor for 3 years (this sentence means, if you leave your village by force
or because of bad things happening, you cannot carry all of your household
possessions, but if you leave your country you have to leave your land, which is
your food resource).
Many villagers in Toungoo District had to leave their villages because of the SPDC
forced relocation. If the do not leave, they will be shot and killed. When they leave
they cannot carry everything and the main food like rice is left behind. They do not
have a chance to go back and take it, because the SPDC eats it without giving the
villagers any compensation, so when the villagers enter the relocation sites they do
not have any food. They have to do forced labor and they do not see any way to
provide good food for their families.
When I lived in relocation sites I couldnt go out and I depended on my clan and
my neighbors. When they had less food and couldnt help me I had to eat por-
Interview 3, 39 years old.
Starting in 2005 and continuing now, the villagers in Toungoo District have lost
their valuable things that they depended on and they are becoming poorer. They
all are internally displaced people and the main problems that continues on to the
next generation are poor health and debt. They cannot provide nutritious food for
their children and they cannot support their childrens education. Many children
cant go to school and have to struggle for their lives with their parents.
They do not have a chance to make money to buy food either. Some people ask
their neighbors for food, and if their neighbors cannot give them anything they
have to eat rice porridge. Rice porridge is a mixture of rice, water and vegetables
to make the rice last longer. It does not have enough nutrition and the people have
to share one persons serving of rice amongst several families.
The situation right now is that the villagers suffer health problems. This is caused
by hiding in the forest when the weather changes. Sometimes rains too much and
sometimes it is too hot. They do not have enough clothes or mosquito nets to
protect them in the night time. They cannot eat normally like before and some-
times they cannot cook. Especially children, women, and the elderly have fared
worse than others.
All the people in Toungoo District have to face things like this but many people get
illnesses for other reasons. Many unlucky villagers are arrested, tortured, raped,
or killed. For those reasons some have metal health problems and some have
permanent physical injuries. Those horrible injuries are still affecting their liveli-
hood and survival. It also affects their ability to find food.
On 15th July 2000 the SPDC Guerrilla Retaliation Unit 124 saw a landmine explode
in the Tha Daw area, so they arrested the village headmen and women, men,
teachers in total 100 people including me. They checked everybody and forced
us to find 1 gun and 1 walkie talkie from the KNU. At that time I promised them I
would find it for them. They kept us in that office for 5 hours without drink or food, so
when they gave me peanuts I thought they were being kind but when I ate them
they slapped my face, and then they sent us back home. Three days later they
again arrested me because I couldnt find the gun and walkie talkie as they or-
dered. They tied our hands behind our backs and took me to their office. They
said that in the night time around 12 or 1 AM they would check us. About 12
oclock they checked me, and during the interrogation they tortured me, tied
my hands and hung me on a tree. They questioned me for 1 hour. When they
released me I couldnt move my hands and they had been broken 6 of my
teeth. I also couldnt eat anymore and they sent word to my family to come
and take care of me. I also saw my friends Saw , 30 years old from Pa Weh
village, Saw , 30 years old from Ler Ker Der Kha village, Saw , 35 years
old from Pa Weh, and Saw , 30 years old from Ler Ker Der Kha village. They
all had to face the same things as me. The SPDC did this because they didnt
believe me, and they also said they were very happy when they tortured us
because we belong to the KNU. The current situation right now is that I am still
suffering from the harm and I cannot survive anymore.380
According to the interviews almost all the villagers in Toungoo District lost
economic and sustainable livelihoods. The current situation right now is that they
do not have a chance to find economic security and go back to their homeland.
They are becoming displaced people and cannot imagine where they will go
tomorrow. Many villagers have debts because the SPDC extorts property, confis-
cates land, destroys livelihoods, extracts unofficial taxes, and cuts communication
In 2007 I had a heavy debt of 100,000 kyat. If I cannot pay it back soon the
company will take my land and whatever they want.381
There is a food security crisis for the people living in Toungoo District because the
military junta is increasing their troops and security since 2005. The military junta
wants to control every area but they are not able to because Toungoo also has an
opposition group to protect the villagers livelihoods. The SPDC needs to elimi-
nate the KNU and create strong security in order to establish their camps.
They use their strong power to abuse the local peoples rights in Toungoo District
and to ignore the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The military govern-
ment is a member of the United Nations and also has signed the International
Labor Organizations, (ILO), Convention on the Eradication of Discrimination
Interview 22, 56 years old.
Against Women (CEDAW), Child Rights and Environmental conventions but they
do not implement them and there have been no positive consequences for their
country and the local people. The SPDC ignores all of those conventions that they
already signed and they have not done any of the promised implementation.
The people in Toungoo District cannot cope with the SPDC strategy. When the
military junta enters Toungoo District they demand forced labor, confiscate land
and property and crack down on communications between villagers and the
KNU. They set fire to the forest, causing a negative impact on the environment,
and the villagers cannot depend on the forest or the gardens. They take away food
sources and precious time from the villagers. The villagers have to move to
relocation sites or hiding place without any guarantees for the next morning. The
latest consequence for the villagers is high debt. Villagers are also becoming
disabled, orphans, widows, and widowers.
The current situation right now is that the villagers cannot imagine where they
will go tomorrow and where they can find sustainable livelihood. They are almost
hopeless and the children do not know what education is, or how to get peace and
justice. They cannot stand by themselves and do not know how to solve their
problems. A very sorrowful thing that that a villager in the IDP camp said was,
We are expressing our suffering, but we only show our injuries and bad experi-
ences to each other. We dont have any power to sue or persuade the military.
When NGOs or international groups hear or read about our bad experiences what
do they think and what do they do to find opportunities for us?
The villagers really hope the NGOs will try to become a gate for telling their
experiences to the international community so that people will pressure the mili-
tary government to stop the human rights abuses and to respect and promote
human and environmental rights because our economy comes from the forest.
They want their livelihoods to be sustainable again and for their nutrition to be as
good as it was before. The villagers in Toungoo District hope living in Kaw Thoo
Lei will become as before the SPDC came.
The people are oppressed by the SPDC but they are strong and struggled to
express their experiences. It is very sorrowful to hear their experiences. For that
reason it is hoped that people reading this report, such as NGOs, the international
community, and the SPDC will have empathy, sympathy, and particularly will
negotiate and pressure the SPDC to stop all human rights abuses.
To the State Peace and Development Council:
Stop violence against people living in Toungoo District.
Withdraw the militarization from Toungoo District.
Sign the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and enter it into
binding force because they are a member of United Nations (UN).
Implement Burmas Constitutional Law.
Promote human rights in Burma.
Stop forced labor in Burma.
Evaluate economic policies and development project policies.
Promote the indigenous peoples livelihood.
Evaluate an international principle of law that is relevant to food security and
improve food security in Burma.
Stop confiscation of the villagers land.
Evaluate state development projects.
Stop burning the forest, this is the villagers food resource.
Stop forced child labor and follow the Article of Child Rights.
Stop violence against womens identities and follow the Article of Women
Put the right to food into practice to bring adequate food to the people in
Follow the articles of the International Labor Organization.
To the International community:
Pressure the SPDC to sign the International Convention on Civil and Political
Rights (ICCPR) and the International Convention on Economic, Social and Culture
Rights (ICESCR) and enter them into binging force.
Pressure the SPDC to follow the Conventions they have already signed.
Pressure the SPDC to stop forced labor in Burma.
Pressure the SPDC to stop all human rights abuses in Burma.
Pressure the SPDC to change the Constitutional Law that they already drafted
without civilian participation.
Stop lending money until the SPDC changes their policies.
Stop investment and trade imports from Burma until policies change.
Pressure the SPDC to not create policies without civilian participation.
Pressure the SPDC to sign and ratify the International Principle of Law such as
ICCPR and ICESCR article that are relevant to Food Security.
Encourage the SPDC to create a sustainable economy and contribute adequate
food for their country.
To the Non-government Organization:
Represent the local people, demand that the SPDC respect human rights and stop
abusing the people in Toungoo District.
Demand that the SPDC stop burning the forest because villagers depend on it.
Demand that the SPDC stop their huge projects that are having a negative impact
on the villagers food security.
Document all human rights abuses perpetrated by the SPDC and submit them to
the international community.
Visit the local area and discover what problems the local people face.
Participate with the local people and try to help local people figure out how to
solve their problems.
To the Local people:
Express your bad experiences yourselves.
Try to find someone who you trust and believe to become your representative
and speak out for you.
Dont be depressed and keep standing up for your rights that are abused.
Try to express your feelings, keep going and struggle for your life.
Think about your future and make an effort for your generation.
Participate with leaders and other organizations to solve your problems.
Some international laws are relevant to food security. The SPDC regime has not
signed these but it is a member of the United Nations, so it should respect and
accept any law that is passed by the United Nations members. The International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) are very relevant to this report.
The villagers who are living in Toungoo District are also humans so they should
have the same rights as other countries people. The SPDC should sign those
international laws and put them into practice so that there will be adequate food
for the people in Toungoo District and the villagers in Toungoo will have an
adequate standard of living.
ICCPR Article 6: The right to life and survival.
ICESCP Article 6: Everyone has the right to work, including the right to gain ones
living at work that is freely chosen and accepted.
Article 8: Everyone has the right to form and join trade unions, the right to strike.
Article 11: Everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living for himself and
his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing. Everyone has the right
to be free from hunger.
Causes of Food Insecurity in Rathidaung Township,
Northern Arakan State
By Zaw Zaw
Map of Arakan (Rakhaing) State, Burma
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-
being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical
care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unem-
ployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or any other lack of livelihood
in circumstances beyond his control.
(Article 25, (1), Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Map of Rathedaung Township, Arakan (Rakhaing) State
The policies of the SPDC, including land confiscation, forced labor and chemical
fertilizer distribution are causing food insecurity in Rathedaung Township. This
report examines the failed SPDC agricultural policy in Arakan State. The first
section of the report deals with land confiscation. Land confiscation has been
talking place throughout the country since the military seized the power in 1962.
In 1972 the new constitution adopted by the ruler general Nay Win made the state
the ultimate owner of the land. Since then there has been no legal protection of
land rights for Burmese people.
Section two examines the consequences of forced labor on food security. Forced
labor is common in Arakan State. Although Burma is a member of the ILO and
ratified their membership in 1955, the SPDC forces farmers to work for their
benefit in some areas. Especially in the rainy season, the farmers have to plough
the farms for the military.
Section three of the report outlines the SPDC policy concerning chemical fertiliza-
tion. The SPDC has forced farmers to use chemical fertilizers without providing
training. The result has been destruction of the land causing increased local food
insecurity. This report is based on research conducted in Rathidaung Township,
Northern Arakan State. Fourteen people were interviewed including farmers and
This boy has to beg for food for his family from house in Arakan State. (Photo by Zaw Zaw).
Background of Arakan State
Arakan State is one of seven states in Burma, located on the Bay of Bengal. It is
bordered by Bangladesh to the northeast, Chin State to the north, and the Irrawaddy,
Maue and Pegu Divisions to the east. It has seventeen townships and the capital
city is Sittwe. The State has an area of 36,778 square kilometers and population of
3,077,712.382 The ethnic groups are Arakanese, Mro, Khami, Kaman, Dienet,
Maramargri, and Thak. Most people are farmers and fishermen.
Arakan State is one of the most highly militarized states in Burma. According to
Supply and Command, a report by the Shwe Gas Movement, since 1988 the
number of battalions in Arakan State has increased from 3 to 43 battalions.383 By
looking at that fact, it can be imagined that farmers in Arakan State are facing
serious livelihood problems. The local people are losing their farmland and other
natural resources such as mangrove forests, bamboo, wood, brooks and rivers that
provide their daily food and shelter. Before the military confiscated the land, the
people got vegetables, fruits and crabs from the mangrove forests. Now the
authorities dont allow the villagers to enter into mangrove forests. The people
have to buy their food from the market. The vegetable and fish sellers also lost
Rathidaung is one of the townships in Arakan State and it located 41.7 kilometers
from Sittwe. According to Township Peace and Development Councils documen-
tation, its total population is 156,240 people and there are 217 villages and 4
quarters. The people earn money by farming. Before 1993, farmers could work on
their ancestral farms without fearing soldiers. They could produce enough rice for
their family. They didnt need to go too much to work as forced labor for the
military. Fishermen also could catch fish without paying high taxes. In 1993 three
SPDC battalions arrived and confiscated the local farms without providing any
compensation. Since then township people have had to work for the SPDC as
forced labor. The SPDCs policy of forced labor has meant that people are facing a
lack of livelihood and food insecurity.
Ministry of Information, 2007, page 110.
Supply and Command, Shwe Gas Movement, July 2006.
According to ND Burma (the Network for Human Rights Documentation-Burma)
land confiscation is An arbitrary and unlawful confiscation, deprivation, or
destruction of housing, land, and/or other assets and material goods by State
authorities, often times committed without permission and under menace of
threat or penalty, that can lead to an inadequate standard of living, obstructions to
improvements in living conditions, unlawful forced evictions and displacements,
and other hardships.384
According to this definition, there has been land confiscation widely occurring in
Rathidaung Township since 1993. The local authorities confiscate land from the
local people without compensation. The main reasons for land confiscation are
militarization, military projects and road construction. Owners of the confiscated-
land commonly get no payment for their land or inadequate compensation. The
consequences are terrible for local farmers who face unemployment, loss of liveli-
hood, food insecurity, debt, and unlawful imprisonment as well.
International human rights law expressly forbids land confiscation. The Universal
Declaration of Human Rights in Article 17 explains:
(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
According to international human rights law, the SPDC is abusing the human
rights in Rathidaung Township. They confiscate the local peoples properties such
as rice farms, vegetable fields, pastures for cattle and natural resources without
due process. As a consequence, people are suffering from a food shortage. The
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Article:
11 (1) states that the state parties must recognize the rights of every person to an
adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food,
clothing and housing. The SPDC has not ratified this convention because they are
abusing those rights. Nevertheless, they should respect the UDHR article (25)
which states that Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for
himself and of his family, including food, clothing and housing.
LIB 537 confiscates the garden from Taung Hla.
(Photo by Zaw Zaw).
Confiscation of Rice Farms
In 1993, three SPDC battalions (LIB 536, 537 and 538) confiscated over 150 acres of
paddy (rice) farms from local farmers without providing any compensation. They
built some barracks in those areas and grew rice for the families of the military.
After three years, they rented the land back to the original farm owners. The
farmers have to give the military 28 tins of rice per acre per year. The farmers
cannot get enough rice for their families by giving that high amount of rice.
Although the farmers dont get enough rice for their families by renting farms
from the militaries, they dont dare to surrender this job because that is their
I have no rice left for the rainy season by renting farms from the military. There are
there points why I rent the farms from them. First, I dont have any other job. Sec-
ond, if I dont rent the farms, they dont allow my cattle to enter into the military
boundary. There is no pasture for my cattle and I have to sell them. These are my
ancestral farms. I dont want to see other people work in my farms.385
Agriculture is the main economy in Rathedaung Township. Rice is the common
crop and the staple food. Before the authorities seized the local farmers rice fields,
they exchanged their rice for vegetables and they could send their children to
school by selling rice. A local farmer explained their family condition before they
lost their farms:
I didnt need to be worried about rice for my family and also I could sell extra
rice to make money. I could spend money for clothes, housing, health and my
childrens education. My familys economic situation was good.386
It was common in Rathedaung Township for the farmers to only grow rice. When
farmers lose their paddy farms, it leads directly to a food scarcity.
When they confiscated my farms, I couldnt sleep well every night. Looking for a
new job was my only thought because I need money to buy rice and my children
were studying. I didnt know which job would be suitable for me. At that time, my
mind was not regular, I was like a mad person.387
Confiscation of Pastures
The farmers in Ratheduang Township use cattle and buffalo to plough their farms,
they are very important for agriculture. Most farmers usually dont grow rice
paddies in some acres of farms and keep it as pastures for cattle. But the local
authorities dont want to see the pasture and forced the farmers to grown rice. If
the farmers dont follow their order, the SPDC confiscates those pastures. The
SPDCs goal is to grow paddies on all farms. Almost nine acres of green farms
from Wor Thick village were confiscated by local authorities to grow cast-Nat
The SPDC confiscated the fields and pastures in In Taung Hla village in 1993.
Almost all of the villages pastures were lost. The farmers who had cattle faced
problems. The SPDC military did not allow the cattle to enter into their area. If
there is no pasture, there will not cattle. If there are no cattle, the farmers cannot
plough their farms and grow rice. Cattle also are important as the maker of organic
fertilizer in the farms through their waste.
In the hot season, they confiscated my farm. The first problem for me was losing
pasture for my cattle. They didnt allow the cattle to enter their areas which they
confiscated from us. So I had to sell some cattle with a low price.388
Interview 5, farmer.
If one buffalo or cow enters into the SPDCs area (the farms which are confiscated
by the military), they order villagers to give 1,000 kyat for one buffalo as a
punishment. Moreover, they beat the cattle owners.
Last year, in the rainy season, I was looking after my cattle. One of the cattle
entered into their farms. The captain beat me.389
Some farmers didnt want to face problems with the military so that they sold their
cattle. The cattle are the second income for farmers because they sell extra cattle
which are not needed to plough in order to buy food. Using cattle labor is their
traditional and sustainable way of farming. That is the only way of farming for
them because there is no engine to plough the farms for farmers.
Confiscation of Natural Resources
In Rathiduang Township, the people in rural areas were very connected with
mangrove forests. The mangrove forests provided their livelihoods. They picked
the vegetables and fruits from it. They could catch the fish and crab from small
brooks of the mangrove forests. Moreover the forest provided the local people
with firewood, leaves for roofs and wood for shelter so they didnt need to spend
money for those things. They got it all for free from mangrove forest.
After 1993, the SPDC confiscated the mangrove forest beside the May Yu River for
shrimp farming (which is very popular in Arakan State). First they put red flats in
the mangrove forest to signal that land was then owned by the SPDC military.
Then, they rent those areas to the local businessmen.
Confiscation of natural resources affects the local people and causes them to be
poorer, jobless and eventually migrant workers. After their lands are confiscated,
the local people are not allowed to enter the mangrove forest. The businessmen cut
the mangrove trees and sell them in the market as firewood. The authorities and
the businessmen dont allow the local people to use the natural resources from
mangrove forests. They sell all of the resources. Given this situation, local people
have to spend more money for their daily lives than before. Rural people are facing
I had a shrimp farm beside
my paddy farm. My shrimp
farm was very popular in
this area. It could produce
a lot of shrimp prawn and
fish. If they didnt confis-
cate it, now I will be a rich
- One of the local farmers
from Taung Hla village
A shrimp farm
Confiscation of Gardens
There are a lot of small hills in Rathidaung Township. The local people have
grown gardens in those hills for many years. They grow mango trees, marian trees,
plum trees and some vegetables. The local garden owners earned money by selling
seasonal vegetables and fruits from those gardens. Today the SPDC is confiscating
these local gardens to supply military families without proving any compensation.
The SPDCs policy is to confiscate the land that they can and then they will rent the
land back to the local people in order to get more money. They take half of income
from the people. It is pure exploitation. The people cannot support their family by
earning income from those gardens. On another hand, they dont have other jobs.
They are worried because they may lose their job anytime.
They confiscated my garden, almost three acres, in 1994. At that time, I was faced
with many problems because I didnt have any other job. After three years, they
rented me my land. Later I realized that why they rented me that garden. They
didnt get the money they expected because the soldiers and their families stole
the fruits from the garden. I also now do not get enough money for my family
because they still steal the fruits from the garden.391
-One of the garden owners
Consequences of Land Confiscation
In Arakan State, agriculture is the most important livelihood; the agricultural land
is the life of Arakan people. Mangrove forests are also important for the people
because they are very connected with the livelihoods of the local people. After
land confiscation, the Arakanese people, especially the farmers, are directly suffer-
ing from food shortages. By the SPDC confiscating farmland, not only have the
farmers been affected but also the employees. Often times in large paddy farms,
farmers have to hire laborers to work. When the land is confiscated by the SPDC,
the laborers were out of work as well.
Land confiscation changed the livelihoods of farmers immediately. Some farmers
have had to find new jobs that are not familiar to them. They often dont get
enough money for their families. Some farmers rent the farms from the military
but they dont get enough rice because of exploitation by SPDC military. They
have to give two thirds of their rice production to the military.
As a result, the farmers are faced with debt year after. Husbands are forced to
migrate to make money. This creates a condition in which the wives and children
to famish. The children have to work for their food so they cannot go to school. The
children do not get an education and are in poor health because of hard work.
After they confiscated my farm, I could not send my children to school. They had
to help me to make money for daily food. One of my daughters died because of
illness in 1996. I couldnt send her to hospital because I didnt have money. I tried
to borrow money from other people but no one lent me.392
-A local father
Burma ratified ILO Convention No. 29 Concerning Force Labor in 1930, which
defines forced labor in Article 2.1 as, All work or service which is exacted from
any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not
offered himself voluntarily. According to this article, the people from Taung Hla
village, Rathidaung Township are having their human rights violated by SPDC
LIB 538. The LIB 538 forces the people to build the barracks and to plough their
farms every year.
Building Military Barracks
Since 1993, the SPDC military has (LIB 538) forced the villagers from Taung Hla
village to build military barracks without providing any wage. During three years,
the farmers had to go forced labor many times to cut the trees, to build the barracks
and to build the roads. No pay was given for such labor. This pushes many
families deeper into poverty. Nowadays, they use the villagers for forced labor
when they build the new barracks. Therefore, people cannot work their jobs.
Farming for the Military
Every year the SPDC military forces the farmers from Taung Hla village to plough
confiscated farms with their own food and tools. They exploit not only human
labor but also animal labor. The farmers have to use their cattle to plough the
In the rainy season, all farmers are very busy by working on their farms. This is the
most important time for farmers. If farmers fail to work their crops on time, rice
production will decrease significantly. The LIB 538, however, does not care about
the well-being of the people or the farms they force the farmers from Taung Hla
village to plough their farms despite the dire consequences for their livelihoods.
They also force the women from the village to clean the grass on the farms and
plant the paddy plants.
I have gone many times as forced labor. We, men have to plough their farms
without getting money. Women also have to clean the grass and grow the paddy
plant in their farms.393
-A local villager
According to one of my interviewees a man should earn 1,000 kyat a day and a
woman should earn 800 kyat. The military does not provide any money for wages.
It is a big problem for daily workers. They dont have money to buy rice. If there is
no rice to cook in their home, how they will get food? How will their families
Consequences of Forced Labor
Most of the farmers dont have enough rice for their family. If they cannot earn
money by working in each day, they face debt for each day of wages. They have to
work everyday for their daily food especially in the rainy season. But the military
does not care and they force the local farmers to plough their farms. Given this,
there is no rice in the villagers homes to cook for dinner. They have to borrow rice
from other people, but this is not a reliable way for them to get food.
The SPDC ratified the International Labor Organizations Convention Article 29
and therefore they announced that if any person is forced into labor, he or she can
complain to the ILO. But at the present, the SPDC ignores the ILO convention.
They continue use the farmers as forced labor in Rathidaung Township.
Chemical Fertilizers & Rice Production
In Arakan State, most people support their families by farming. Arakan was one of
the biggest rice production states in the past. However, farmers in Arakan State
nowadays are facing serious livelihood-problems. According to the Natural Light
Journal, in the last two decades most farmers have been forced to buy chemical
fertilizers from the government, and its back-businessmen. But the government
didnt give any training to the farmers in the methods of using chemical fertilizers.
Given this lack of knowledge, chemical fertilizers have further destroyed the land
in a short time period and left farmers in an even worse state of food shortage,
joblessness, debt, and even long-term imprisonment.
According to one of my interviewees, some families have to satisfy their hunger
with congee (surplus water that is drained off while rice is being cooked) in the
rainy season. Some parents are not able to feed their children and let them beg for
stuffs or food from other people.
Decreasing rice production is directly connected with food insecurity in Rathedaung
Township. The rice production in Rathiduang Township is now very different that
is was twenty years ago; It is almost 50% less now.
It is very different from ten years ago. Same that time, I got four hundred tins of
rice from my farm but now I got only two hundred tins of rice.394
- A local farmer
The use of chemical fertilizers, the loss of traditional cultivation, the disappear-
ance of traditional seeds and the lack of cattle for agriculture have all contributed
to the decrease in rice production.
Use of Chemical Fertilizers
According to the interviewees, the farmers dont know which fertilizer to use, how
much to use or how long to use it for. Now the soil in the farms has been almost
depleted. Chemical fertilizers not only nourish plants and microbes, but also may
have harmful effects on the soil and its life.395 Some plants and fish which were
used for organic fertilizer are no longer available. Most of the farmers have to use
chemical fertilizers to continue in their farms. There are three types of chemical
fertilizers that are very popular in Arakan State; hey are Urea, T Super and Three
Cycles. They cost from 17,000 kyat to 40,000 kyat for one bag. If the use of chemical
fertilizers is stopped in the farm, the rice production will decrease extremely. Now
most farmers use depending on chemical fertilizer in the farm.
There is no organic fertilizer in my farm. If I dont use chemical fertilizer in my farm,
my farm will not give me rice.396
Farmers cannot buy enough chemical fertilizers because the price gets higher and
higher year after year. On another hand, the soil has become depleted. So the
farmers have to take loans (borrow) money from rich men with 20% interest or the
farmers can borrow chemical fertilizers in the rainy season and they have to give
100 tins of rice for three bags of chemical fertilizers. If a person cannot give 100 tins
of rice for three bags at that year, he must give 200 tins of rice the next year. That
loan system pushes the farmers to starve.
Method of Chemical Fertilizer Distribution
According to Natural Light Journal, in western Burma, military authorities as well
as heads of trading companies generally import chemical fertilizer from Bangladesh
to Shwe Min Gan harbor in Arakan States capital city Sittwe. Despite Bangladeshi
authorities crack down on fertilizer smuggling to Burma, the illegal trade of
fertilizers to Burma from Bangladesh is still widespread.397
www.metafro.be/leisa/1990/6 3 8.pdf
The fertilizers are received by closed committees in each township and these
committees allow only specific village representatives to sell the product. The
village representatives sell to the farmers with a loan system. In harvest time, the
farmers have to give the village representatives 100 tins of rice for three chemical
fertilizer bags. If some one cannot pay that amount of rice, they seized the farmers
properties such as buffalo and farm fields.
Loss of Traditional Cultivation
Over twenty years ago, the
farmers used the traditional
method of farming. The farm-
ers lived on the farms for a
long time. They used grinds
(hand mills to husk grain)
step by step until the rice was
ready to eat so they could put
the paddy husk in the farms.
The husk became organic fer-
tilizer the next year. They also
put the buffalo on their farms
for a long time. The waste of buffalo is a very good organic fertilizer for paddy
plants and this there is how they farmed traditionally. With these methods, they
could produce enough rice for their families.
Over twenty years ago, I did not need to use chemical fertilizers in my farms. The
soil was good. Paddy plants were good and rice production was also good. At
that time, although I had to sell the rice to the government, I had enough rice for
The Burmese government forced the farmers to use chemical fertilizer. They told
the farmers propaganda about how much chemical fertilizers were good in the
farms by showing their good farms. Since this time, the farmers have been using
chemical fertilizers and they have been careless in forgetting their traditional
Nowadays, the farmers dont follow the traditional methods of farming. They
send the paddy to the rice mill. The paddy husk goes into the rivers and brooks.
There is no paddy husk left to be used as organic fertilizer in the farms. The
chemical fertilizers have become the main staple of rice production. The farmers
need money to buy chemical fertilizers for their farms. They borrow the money
from the businessmen with 20% interest. This forces the farmers to be faced with
debt. If they used traditional methods of farming, they would not need to use
After farmers use chemical fertilizers, there is no balance between rice production
and costly chemical fertilizers. Farmers dont get enough rice for their families so
they need more time to make money. They thought that traditional farming waste
a lot of time so they surrendered traditional farming. The main reason why they
surrendered traditional methods was that they didnt have enough rice for their
families, but now they have even less.
I know if I use traditional method in rice production, the soil will be good. Now I
get 200 tins from my farm. But of course, I need 300 rice tins for my family in a year.
So I need more time to look for 100 tins of rice. So I have to choose the short time
way to get enough rice for my family. Unfortunately, there is no regular work in my
As a result, the farmers are poorer and poorer year by year.
Disappearance of Traditional Seeds
Twenty years ago, the farmers were usually careful about the paddy seeds. They
chose the best seeds and kept them securely. Those were traditional seeds for
them. They were very suitable with the soil and weather. The farmers could
produce enough rice for their families.
Now the traditional paddy seeds have almost disappeared in Rathidaung Town-
ship. The government forced the farmers to buy the modern seeds. Some seeds are
imported illegally from Bangladesh. The farmers need to produce more rice in a
short time so they test the new paddy seeds.
Our traditional paddy seeds have disappeared. Now the seed which we are
planting are early maturing paddy plants. They absorb the soil fertilizer in short
Now the farmers have to use chemical fertilizers more and more. As a result, the
farmers have debt and cannot provide enough rice for their families.
Decreased Cattle for Agriculture
Cattle are very important in farming in Arakan State. Cattle plough the farms and
their wastes are very good fertilizer for the paddy plant. Cattle are also an income
for farmers because the farmers earn more by selling extra cattle. The cattle in
Rathidaung Township are decreasing and decreasing year by year. There are two
reasons why the cattle are decrease. First, the farmers dont have enough food and
have to sell them. The other reason is there is not enough pasture available for the
cattle so they are sold. The farmers send the buffalo and cattle to the mountains
when there are no pastures. However, buffalos and cattle fall down the mountain
I have seven buffalos but I dont have green farm for them. So I sent them to the
mountain. Last year, one of the buffalo fell down from the mountain and died. We
face this problem almost every year.401
As a direct consequence of this situation, farmers are increasingly facing food
Everybody knows that food is very important for people to live. It is also a human
right, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 17. Every-
body has the right to have enough food. But the people in Rathidaung Township,
mostly in rural areas, are being abused in regard to these rights by the SPDC. The
SPDC abuses the people by confiscating their land, forcing labor and requiring
them to use chemical fertilizers. Having sufficient food is the main goal for most
people in Arakan State. They dont have money to buy food because of extreme
poverty. The people cannot escape from deep debt because of the economic
monopoly imposed by the SPDC.
Land confiscation not only affects the farmers but also the employees and the
fishermen. If a farmer loses his fields, at least two or three employees will lose
their jobs. In rural areas, the farmers and fishermen exchange their rice and fish. If
the farmers dont have enough rice, it will be difficult for the fishermen to get rice,
the staple food.
The people depended on each other. The SPDC has been exploiting the labor of
people by forcing them to plough farms for them without providing any wage.
The people cannot do their own work because they have to spend their time
working for the military. They cannot earn money to support their families.
The SPDCs only policy on agriculture is to exploit the farmers. They forced the
farmers to use chemical fertilizers. Consequently, agriculture in Arakan State is
unsustainable. People are also faced with dept because they have to buy chemical
fertilizers with high prices. Because of these problems the people from Rathidaung
Township are facing a serious food shortage.
For the SPDC:
Respect the livelihood of people in Burma
Respect the UDHR and Follow the ILO convention
Encourage the farmers to practice the sustainable agriculture
Reduce the jobless people
Take agreement with the local farmers for agricultural policy
Give training the method of using chemical fertilizers
Save the traditional farming
Save the traditional seeds
Teach and share traditional farming methods to youth
Stop doing business with the SPDC and trading in illegal fertilizers
Respect the Human Rights and Environment
For the international community:
Pressure the SPDC to follow the ILO Convention on Forced Labor
Stop buying natural resources from Burma